BP boss no longer in charge of spill oversight
Decision comes amid news of Gulf progress
NEW ORLEANS —
Carl-Henric Svanberg told Britain’s Sky News television that Hayward “is now handing over the operations, the daily operations to [managing director] Bob Dudley,’’ overshadowing news that after many setbacks BP was finally making significant progress in siphoning and burning off oil from the underwater gusher.
Coast Guard Admiral Thad Allen announced earlier yesterday that a newly expanded containment system is capturing or incinerating more than 1 million gallons of oil daily, the first time it has approached its peak capacity. And the system will soon grow. By late June, the oil giant hopes it can keep nearly 90 percent of the flow from hitting the ocean.
Allen also said the Coast Guard is ramping up efforts to capture the crude closer to shore with the help of private boats. As of yesterday morning, between 65 million and 121.6 million gallons of oil have gushed into the Gulf of Mexico, based on federal daily flow rate estimates.
The optimistic news about the containment plan was tempered by Hayward’s removal, which follows a June 4 announcement by BP that Dudley, an American oil executive, would lead the long-term response to the oil spill once the leak had been stopped. Svanberg’s statement appeared to accelerate that timeline, as millions of gallons of crude continue to gush into the Gulf.
A BP spokesman in Houston, Tristan Vanhegan, says the “board still has confidence in Tony.’’
The company also continues to struggle to compensate Gulf Coast residents and business owners who have been economically devastated by the spill. Yesterday, the House Judiciary Committee said data it has collected show that BP has paid less than 12 percent of the claims submitted, by dollar value. BP, however, said the number was higher.
The committee said in a statement that data it collected showed only $71 million out of an estimated $600 million had been paid as of Tuesday. In addition, the panel said that BP didn’t make any payments in the first two weeks after the April 20 explosion and oil spill, and that it hasn’t made a payment for bodily injury or diminished home property value.
BP spokesman Scott Dean said in an e-mail that the company had paid out $95 million as of yesterday, and it had written about 30,000 checks to settle about half of the 63,000 claims it has received.
Representative John Conyers, a Michigan Democratic, said he is concerned that BP “is stiffing too many victims and shortchanging others.’’
The chief of the new independent office to pay claims said a plan to handle the remaining damage claims will be in place in 30 to 45 days. Kenneth Feinberg, who’s overseeing the Independent Claims Facility, said he also hopes to have a program going forward that would provide payment within 30 to 60 days of someone submitting a new claim. “The challenge here is going to be to evaluate quickly eligible claims, legitimate claims, and get them paid,’’ said Feinberg, who was chosen by President Obama and BP for the role.
Feinberg, who was in Mississippi yesterday to meet with Governor Haley Barbour, reiterated that his office isn’t a government program. The lawyer, who oversaw payouts to victims of the Sept. 11 attacks, said he will be paid by BP but didn’t say how much.
Meanwhile, vast amounts of natural gas contained in crude escaping from the blown oil well could pose a serious threat to marine life by creating “dead zones’’ where oxygen is so depleted that nothing lives.
The danger presented by the methane has been largely overlooked, with early efforts to monitor the oil spill focusing on the more toxic components of oil. But scientists are increasingly worried about the gas that can suffocate sea creatures in high concentrations.