Obama halts all deep-water oil drilling, new estimates show four times more oil than thought gushing into Gulfby Dara Kam | May 27th, 2010
President Barack Obama halted all deep-water oil drilling operations in the Gulf for the next six months or until a presidential commission co-chaired by former Florida U.S. Sen. Bob Graham completes its work.
Obama ordered the 33 deep-water rigs to stop drilling this afternoon as federal officials estimate that between 12,000 and 15,000 barrels of oil per day – up to four times more than previously thought – is gushing from the Deepwater Horizon well into the Gulf of Mexico. The disaster has now surpassed the Exxon Valdez spill more than 20 years ago.
Obama refuted criticism that his administration has not responded quickly enough to the disaster but acknowledged more could have been done in at least two key areas, including the oil flow estimates.
“This is what I wake up to in the morning and this is what I go to bed at night thinking about. The spill,” Obama told reporters at a press conference this afternoon in Washington. “Those who think that we were either slow on our response or lacked urgency don’t know the facts. This has been our highest priority since this crisis occurred.”
But government officials should not have trusted BP’s estimates of how much oil was spewing from the well more than 5,000 feet below the sea level, Obama said.
“This is an area where I do think our efforts fell short,” he said. “It took too long for us to stand up our flow tracking group that has now made these more accurate ranges of calculation.”
While Obama defended the federal government’s response to the disaster, now in its 37th day, he admitted that his administration did not adequately prepare for the massive influx of oil now covering more than 100 miles of shoreline in Louisiana.
He said that more boom should have been available to the Gulf Coast before the oil reached the coastline.
“Pre-deploying boom would have been the right thing to do…I think there was a lack of anticipation of what the worst case scenarios would be. And that’s a problem,” Obama said.
The president’s press conference came as BP officials were in the second day of the oil giant’s latest attempt to staunch the oil flow. Initial reports indicate that the “top kill” method of injecting drilling fluids into the well appear to be working.
“This procedure offers no guarantee of success,” Obama said.