BP Keeping Mum on Many Oil Spill Details

It seems that BP is keeping some vital information about the Deepwater Horizon oil spill secret. Even worse, the federal government appears to be going along with that.

According to a McClatchy Newspapers report, BP hasn’t disclosed results of tests on the extent of workers’ exposure to evaporating oil or from the burning of crude over the gulf. Experts say that information is crucial in order to determine if conditions are safe for workers.

The Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA), the agency in charge of monitoring compliance with worker safety regulations, has urged BP to release the results of those air sample tests. OSHA has access to that data and is monitoring it to determine what type of equipment the workers should be issued and other questions related to worker safety. However, an official with OSHA told McClatchy that the data – which is being collected by BP-hired contractors – “isn’t ours to publish.”

BP also hasn’t appeared too anxious to determine how much oil the stricken Deepwater Horizon well might be leaking into the Gulf of Mexico. The government and BP put the amount at 5,000 barrels – around 210,000 gallons. But those measurements are based on satellite imagery of the oil slick on the surface.

We reported earlier this week that scientists aboard the research vessel Pelican had discovered giant plumes of oil deep in the Gulf of Mexico. One of these plumes was as large as 10 miles long, 3 miles wide and 300 feet thick. The scientists said the plumes were evidence that the leak was substantially worse than estimates that the government and BP have given. They fear the true amount could be closer to 25,000 to 80,000 barrels of oil a day.

Last week, BP finally released video clips of the oil gushing from the well, after complaints from the media and some in Congress. Some experts who analyzed it estimated that the amount of oil pouring into the gulf was many times the government’s official estimate.

Sens. Bill Nelson, D-Fla., and Barbara Boxer, D-Calif., on Monday asked BP on Monday to provide all available video footage. Some clips were provided yesterday. However, even with the new clips, scientists still can only make a rough guess at the true amount of oil coming from the well.

According to the McClatchy report, BP has not installed, nor does it plan to install, additional equipment on the sea floor to better monitor the amount of the flow.

Some university researchers told McClatchy that they have been frustrated by the lack of data and the refusal of federal agencies to press BP to collect detailed measurements from the broken well pipe or fully assess what might be happening underwater.

The Deepwater Horizon drilling rig, which BP PLC leased from TransOcean LTD, exploded off the coast of Louisiana on April 20 and sank two days later. Eleven rig workers missing since the blast are presumed dead. The oil spill spawned by the blast has now grown to more than 7,500 square miles,

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