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Timeline of the Gulf Coast Oil Spill and Emergency Response
May 7, 2010

Posted by Matt Dempsey Matt_Dempsey@epw.senate.gov  

Timeline of Gulf Coast Oil Spill

Tuesday, April 20, 2010   -In the evening, an explosion occurred on the DeepWater Horizon oil rig. Out of the 126 people aboard the rig, 17 people were injured and 11 are presumed dead. The rig, located 41 miles off the coast of Louisiana, was leased by BP from Transocean Ltd. There was no mention of any possible spill. President Obama was alerted.

Wednesday, April 21, 2010   -US Coast Guard held a press conference at 3:00 p.m.  According to Transocean VP Adrian Rose, "There was some abnormal pressure build-up before the fire. The fire basically was a blow-out, though the cause has not officially been determined."  Also from Rose: "Deepwater Horizon crew had drilled the well to its final depth, more than 18,000 feet, and was cementing the steel casing at the time of the explosion." Deputy Secretary of Interior David J. Hayes was deployed to the Gulf Coast to assist with coordination and response to the event.

Thursday, April 22, 2010   -At 10:22 a.m., the oil rig sank. "Worst case scenario, there is a potential environmental threat," said Coast Guard spokeswoman Katherine McNamara.  BP began response efforts in conjunction with Transocean and initiated plans to drill a relief well.  CEO Tony Hayward said that BP was doing "everything in our power to contain this oil spill and resolve the situation as rapidly, safely and effectively as possible."   US Senator Mary Landrieu called for a US Coast Guard, MMS investigation. 

Friday, April 23, 2010   -On Good Morning America, Coast Guard Rear Adm. Mary Landry said, "No oil appeared to be leaking from the wellhead at the ocean floor, nor was any leaking at the water's surface. That being said, we have positioned resources to be ready to respond should a spill occur... We will continue to monitor 24/7 for the next several days." The rig was found sunken and upside down approximately one quarter mile northwest of the blowout preventer.  An oil sheen was reported with approximately 8,400 gallons estimated on the water, although no apparent leak was discovered. The Coast guard called off the search for the 11 missing workers.

Saturday, April 24, 2010   -US Coast Guard held a press conference where they announced for the first time that oil was leaking. "About 1,000 barrels a day are emanating from the wellhead into the water," and "this has the potential to be a major spill," Mary Landry said. One leak was located on the riser and another on the drill pipe. US Coast Guard elevated response.  Flyovers indicated that there was a different oil sheen than the one immediately following the explosion, according to the Coast Guard.

Sunday, April 25, 2010   -Inclement weather delayed clean-up efforts. Remotely Operated Underwater Vehicles (ROVs) were sent in to plug leaks. Alternative plans were drawn up to drill an intervention or relief well. According to the Coast Guard, up to 1,000 barrels were leaking per day.

Wednesday, April 28, 2010   -Workers began the first controlled burn to minimize the amount of oil that would reach shore.  NOAA revised estimates of oil leakage to five times as much as first thought. BP officials discovered another leak.  US Coast Guard erected 9,000 feet of containment rings.

Thursday, April 29, 2010   -Louisiana Gov. Bobby Jindal declared a state of emergency. That morning, the spill was roughly 16 miles off the Louisiana coast and stretched across a 600-mile area. Modeling showed the slick could reach parts of the coast by later that day. Senator Inhofe released a statement on Gulf oil rig accident.

The White House held a press briefing on the oil spill in the Gulf Coast.

Saturday, May 01, 2010   -The Obama administration named Admiral Thad Allen, the retiring US Coast Guard commandant who directed recovery operations during Hurricanes Katrina and Rita, to direct efforts.

Sunday, May 02, 2010   -President Obama made a trip to the Gulf area. BP's Chairman Lamar McKay blamed failed equipment for the spill.

Monday, May 03, 2010   -BP said it would take financial responsibility and released a fact sheet. Link to fact sheet

EPA Administrator Lisa Jackson appeared on the Rachel Maddow Show to discuss the spill. Link to transcript

Tuesday, May 04, 2010   -BP attached a shut-off valve to one leak and worked to attach cofferdams to the others. BP officials met with House Energy and Commerce members and estimated that there could be, in a worst case scenario, up to 60,000 barrels per day leaking into the ocean.  A story in Houston Chronicle highlighted Transocean's elimination of bonuses for senior Executives in FY 2009 due to safety concerns.  The Senate Committee on Environment and Public Works announced that it would hold a hearing entitled, "Economic and Environmental Impacts of the Recent Oil Spill in the Gulf of Mexico."

Wednesday, May 05, 2010   -A successful controlled burn was conducted as part of the response effort.

Thursday, May 06, 2010   -Oil reached shore at Chandeleur Islands, a small group of uninhabited barrier islands off the northeast of the Mississippi Delta.

Friday, May 07, 2010   -BP began to lower the containment dome in an attempt to capture leaking oil. Senator Inhofe announced the launch of his "Information on Gulf Coast Oil Spill Emergency Response." Link to webpage   

Saturday, May 08, 2010   -Efforts to place the containment dome to capture leaking oil were unsuccessful. Tar balls were reported on Dauphin Island (Alabama).

Sunday, May 09, 2010   -US Attorney General Eric Holder dispatched Justice Department officials to determine whether there had been any "misfeasance" or "malfeasance" related to the Gulf oil spill.

Monday, May 10, 2010 - BP prepares to lower a second, smaller containment dome. A story surfaced in the Times-Pacayune that a gas surge shut down the well several weeks prior to the incident.

Tuesday, May 11, 2010 - Senior Executives from BP, TransOcean and Halliburton appeared before the Senate Committee on Environment and Public Works as well as the Committee on Energy and Natural Resources. Secretary of Interior Ken Salazar announces that MMS, Minerals Management Service, will split into two divisions: royalties and safety/oversight.

Wednesday, May 12, 2010 - BP prepared to place a smaller containment dome over the leak. An investigation at the Energy and Commerce Committee in the House of Representatives found that "the blowout preventer that failed to stop a huge oil spill in the Gulf of Mexico had a dead battery in its control pod, leaks in its hydraulic system, a "useless" test version of a key component and a cutting tool that wasn't strong enough to shear through steel joints in the well pipe and stop the flow of oil."

Thursday, May 13, 2010 - Transocean, Ltd. filed a petition seeking to limit its liability using a law from 1851. 

Friday, May 14, 2010 - Tar balls were discovered along the beach at Port Fourchon, LA.

Saturday, May 15, 2010 - EPA approved the direct application of oil dispersants in deep water at the source of the spill. 

Sunday, May 16, 2010 - An AP investigation claimed that MMS did not adhere to its own policy as it conducted 16 fewer inspections aboard the "Deepwater Horizon than it should have under the policy." Oil company engineers succeeded in siphoning off some of the leaking oil by "hooking up a mile-long tube to funnel the crude into a tanker ship."

Monday, May 17, 2010 - President Obama announced that he will name an independent commission to investigate the spill. The top federal official that led regulatory efforts of offshore oil drilling at MMS, Chris Oynes, announced his retirement.

Tuesday, May 18, 2010 - Federal regulators increased the federal waters in the Gulf where fishing is shut down because of the spill. Senate Committees on ENR and EPW were held on the Gulf Coast Spill and Secretary Salazar and Senator Landrieu commented on the Liability Cap:

KEN SALAZAR, Secretary Of The Interior: "[I]t Is Important That We Be Thoughtful Relative To That, What That Cap Will Be, Because You Don't Want Only The B.P.s Of The World Essentially Be The Ones That Are Involved In -- In These Efforts, That There Are Companies Of -- Of Lesser Economic Robustness." (Energy And Natural Resources Committee, U.S. Senate, Hearing, 5/18/10)

KEN SALAZAR, Secretary Of The Interior: "The President Has Sent A Request To The Congress To Lift The Amounts On The Liability Limitation, But That Exact Amount Should Be -- Should Take Into Consideration The Kinds Of Facts That You Are Alluding To Here, Senator Inhofe, and so that's why the administration will engage with the congress and will figure out where the appropriate limit should be set. That's why there was not a specific number that was sent forth." (Environment And Public Works Committee, U.S. Senate, Hearing, 5/18/10)

SEN. MARY LANDRIEU (D-LA): "But The Question Of This Liability Issue Going Forward -- I Want To Commend You [Sec. Salazar] For Taking Your Time To Decide On The Right Answer, Because If We Don't Do This Correctly, We Could Put Independent And Smaller Companies That Employ 1.8 Million People In This Country At Risk, If This Issue Isn't Handled Correctly. So With All Due Respect To My Colleague, Who I Have The Utmost Admiration For, Senator Menendez And Others That Are Calling For Unlimited Liability, It Will Put Out Of Reach The Possibility For Insurance, Which Is Extremely Important For This And Any Industry To Have To Operate. So It Has To Be Done In The Right Way, And I Thank You For Taking Your Time On The Details Of That." (Energy And Natural Resources Committee, U.S. Senate, Hearing, 5/18/10)

Wednesday, May 19, 2010 -Interior Secretary Salazar announced a plan to replace the Minerals Management Service with two bureaus and a revenue collection office: The Bureau of Safety and Environmental Enforcement, Bureau of Ocean Energy Management and the Office of Natural Resources Revenue.

Thursday, May 20, 2010 - Senator Begich commented on the liability cap proposal:

"Well actually if you read the President's comments today he actually made a comment that the 10 billion depending on the situation we may get ourselves into only working with mega oil companies so we've got to be very careful. I think both Senator Murkowski and I have talked about this issue. We both agree that 175 million is too low but 2 to 10 billion may be too high and there should be a calculation based on the volume the kind of size of the company, the assets, the profit margins all those things should be put in the mix. 175 million is ..." (Matt Felling) "So you're against the catchall one-size-fits all 10 billion as well?" (Senator Begich) "Yeah I think that might be too high but I'm not saying but 175 is way way way too low. We should examine and I think that is what Senator Murkowski is attempting to do here is try to examine the right type of mix here. I'm open but 175 I guess the number speaks for itself it is way way too low." (View from the Hill, Interview of Senator Begich by Matt Felling, 5/20/10)

Friday, May 21, 2010 - An oil-industry task force developed recommendations to change offshore safety procedures.  EPA ordered BP to utilize less-toxic, more effective oil dispersants if available. BP started finalizing plans for the "top kill" procedure to stop the flow of oil.

Saturday, May 22, 2010 - The Obama Administration named former Florida Sen. Bob Graham and ex-EPA Administrator William K. Reilly to lead the Presidential Commission investigating the Gulf Coast spill. EPA released a document that highlighted BP's decline to switch oil dispersants.

Monday, May 24, 2010 – LA Gov. Bobby Jindal called on the Obama Administration “to approve an emergency permit for a state plan to dredge and build new barrier islands to keep the oil from reaching the marshes and wetlands.” EPA ordered “BP to ‘take immediate steps to significantly scale back’ its use or find alternatives to the dispersants being used to break up the oil spilled.  

Wednesday, May 26, 2010 – BP admitted their decision to continue work on the well after a test indicated there might be a problem was a mistake. Inspector General of the Interior Department issued a report on MMS indicating there were inappropriate relationships and behavior between employees and the companies being overseen.

Thursday, May 27, 2010President Obama held a press conference on his Administration’s response to the spill. He also extended the deepwater drilling moratorium (exploratory wells) for six months and canceled a lease sale off Virginia. Liz Birnbaum, head of MMS, resigned.  Adm. Thad Allen approved a proposal to build sand berms to protect the LA coast.

Saturday, May 29, 2010 - BP's "top kill" effort deemed failure.

Monday, May 31, 2010 - A "federally convened group of scientists" recomended BP and the U.S. continue spraying dispersants into the ocean. BP began its third attempt to contain leaking oil, which will involve "slicing off the leaking pipe at the top of the well's broken blow-out preventer, placing a cap over the leak and channeling the captured oil and gas to a vessel on the surface."

Tuesday, June 01, 2010 - The U.S. launched criminal and civil investigations into the events surrounding the spill.

Thursday, June 03, 2010 - Crews successfully cut oil pipe and will prepare to cap it and pump oil to the surface.

Friday, June 04, 2010 – BP successfully placed a containment dome over the cut oil pipe.

Saturday, June 05, 2010 – The containment dome collected approximately 6,000 barrels of oil.

Sunday, June 06, 2010 – The containment dome daily capturing increased to about 10,500 barrels of oil.

Tuesday, June 08, 2010 – The Department of Interior announced it would impose additional rules on shallow water drilling but allow it to continue.

Wednesday, June 09, 2010The containment dome daily capturing increased to about 15, 000 barrels of oil per day. EPA released a full list of the ingredients in the oil dispersants utilized by BP.

Friday, June 11, 2010 – U.S. Geological Survey increased its estimate of leaking oil to 20,000 to 40,000 barrels per day. IEA estimated that the U.S. Offshore Drilling Ban in deepwater could cost America 100,000 to 300,000 barrels of oil per day.

Sunday, June 13, 2010 – Some in Congress called for a 20 billion dollar escrow fund to pay for cleanup and economic damages.

Monday, June 14, 2010 – President Obama made his fourth trip to the Gulf.

Tuesday, June 15, 2010 – NOAA said it would add additional measures to ensure consumers aren’t harmed from tainted Gulf of Mexico seafood.

Wednesday, June 16, 2010 – The President delivered a speech on the spill and named Michael R. Bromwich to oversee the reorganization of the Minerals Management Service.  The oil leakage rate was revised upwards to approximately 35,000 to 60,000 barrels per day.

Thursday, June 17, 2010 - BP agreed to establish a $20 billion fund for oil spill claims at the urging of the President.

Friday, June 18, 2010 - BP Chairman Carl-Henric Svanberg replaced CEO Tony Hayward with Managing Director Robert Dudley as the head of daily operations for the response.

Sunday, June 20, 2010 - An internal BP document was released that stated the leak could be as high as 100,000 barrels per day.

Wednesday, June 23, 2010 – A U.S. judge “overturned a six-month ban on drilling in water deeper than 500 feet after an appeal by drillers who stand to lose business.” Secretary Salazar quickly said he would “issue a new order imposing a moratorium on deep-water drilling that would contain additional information showing why it was necessary.”

Thursday, June 24, 2010 - BP and other companies based their oil spill response plans on “U.S. government projections that gave very low odds of oil hitting shore.” The USCG announced they would investigate the command structure abroad the Deepwater Horizon to see if it contributed to the confusion during the tragedy.

Wednesday, June 30, 2010 – EPA issued a study indicating that all of the mass-produced chemical dispersants fall within the same very low levels of toxicity.

Tuesday, July 6, 2010 – Tar balls appeared on a Texas beach.

Sunday, July 11, 2010 - BP began efforts to install a more secure cap on the leaking well. They also entered into material discussions with Apache Corporation to sell approximately $10 billion worth of assets.

Monday, July 12, 2010 - Secretary Ken Salazar "issued a second moratorium to replace an earlier ban that was tossed out in federal court."

Tuesday, July 13, 2010 - Additional testing delayed the sealing of the more secure cap.

Thursday, July 15, 2010 - BP reported positive tests results from the sealing of the more secure cap.

Friday, July 23, 2010 - A Transocean employee testified at a federal hearing that the general alarm system aboard the Deepwater Horizon had been 'inhibited.' Researchers at the University of South Florida confirmed for the first time that the oil plums are directly linked to the leaking BP well.

Tuesday, July 27, 2010 - BP announced that it would replace Tony Hayward with Robert Dudley as CEO on October 1, 2010. They also announced a plan to sell $30 billion worth of assets.

Wednesday, August 4, 2010 - The Obama Administration announced that approximately three-quarters of the spilled oil has “already evaporated, dispersed, been captured or otherwise eliminated – and that much of the rest is so diluted that it does not seem to pose much additional risk of harm.” In addition, BP claimed its static kill procedure, pumping heavy drilling mud to push oil from the well back into the reservoir, to be successful.

Sunday, August 8, 2010 - Retired Coast Guard Admiral Thad W. Allen stated that “ we were able to statically kill the well from the top by putting cement down the pipe casing, and we pressure tested that the last two days, so that’s holding.” According to Admiral Allen, the next step is to finish the relief well, which is scheduled to be finished later this month.

Monday, August 30, 2010 – The Obama Administration imposed a new conflict-of-interest policy that requires BOEMRE employees to “tell supervisors about any potential conflict of interest and submit formal requests not to be assigned inspections or other official duties when those conflicts arise. The employees also must ask to step down when their inspections or official duties involve a company employing a family member or close personal friend.”

Wednesday, September 8, 2010 - BP released the results of its internal investigation of the root causes of the Macondo Well spill.

Sunday, September 19, 2010 - BP completed the final "bottom-kill" operation to permanently seal the Macondo well.





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