Video: Feds at loggerheads with La. over oil cleanup

  1. Transcript of: Feds at loggerheads with La. over oil cleanup

    BRIAN WILLIAMS, anchor: said, the sickening sight of all of that oil again spewing out of that well all over again. The so-called containment cap that had been working at least partially is now gone, and that was a heartbreaker for the gulf region today, along with an ugly sight on some Florida beaches. We begin our coverage in Venice , Louisiana , with our chief environmental affairs correspondent, Anne Thompson . Anne , good evening.

    ANNE THOMPSON reporting: Good evening, Brian . This breakdown is particularly discouraging because it was just yesterday that BP collected the most oil to date, some 27,000 barrels, and then the unexpected happened. This is what the well looked like when the day started, but by late morning it was a geyser. One of the remote-operated vehicles, BP 's eyes and hands a mile beneath the surface, was spreading dispersants when it ran into the containment cap at 9:45 Eastern. The accident forced a vent closed, sending natural gas up the vent that carries warm water down to prevent hydrates, those troublesome icelike crystals that can block vents and create pressure inside the cap. As a precautionary measure, BP removed the containment cap.

    Admiral THAD ALLEN (United States Coast Guard): Before they decided to move it back in, they had to check and see if there were any hydrates there. If there are hydrates, they're probably going to have to pull the drill pipe and reinsert it.

    THOMPSON: A setback that could seriously hamper the efforts to staunch the flow.

    Mr. ED OVERTON (Professor Emeritus, Louisiana State University): Nothing happens real quickly when you're operating remotely from a mile away. So it's -- as a minimum, you're talking hours.

    THOMPSON: Until the cap is replaced, up to 50,000 barrels a day could flow into the gulf; 10,000 barrels are still being collected by the Q-4000 system, taking oil to the surface to be flared off. Closer to Louisiana 's coast, better news. Today we traveled some 50 miles around the southern tip of Louisiana and found no new signs of oil. No ribbons, no patches, no sheen. Does that mean this part of the coast can breathe easy? Far from it. For now the oil is moving east and north, and so is the tension between Louisiana and the federal government. Dredging is at a standstill out at the Chandelier Islands , where the state is building a temporary sand berm. The Department of Interior says the state is violating its permit by continuing to take sand from an area both sides agreed to avoid. But the state isn't budging, promising to replace every bit of sand it takes. Anne Thompson , NBC News, Venice, Louisiana .

updated 6/23/2010 10:04:35 PM ET 2010-06-24T02:04:35

The Obama administration on Wednesday night asked a judge to delay a court ruling that overturned a moratorium on new drilling in the Gulf.

In court papers, the Justice Department said that it is seeking the delay while appealing the decision of U.S. District Judge Martin Feldman.

The Justice Department says a delay would serve the public interest by eliminating the risk of another drilling accident while new safety equipment standards and procedures are considered. The papers were filed with the U.S. District Court in New Orleans.

The Interior Department imposed the moratorium last month in the wake of the BP disaster, halting approval of any new permits for deepwater projects and suspending drilling on 33 exploratory wells.

On Tuesday, Feldman overturned it, saying the government simply assumed that because one deep-water rig exploded, the others pose an imminent danger, too.

Interior Secretary Ken Salazar's determination that a threat exists has firm support from a variety of sources, the Justice Department argued in seeking the delay.

"The existence of such a threat is not seriously contested" by any expert cited by the companies seeking to overturn the moratorium or by the state of Louisiana, the court filing stated.

"To the contrary, the state of Louisiana concedes that additional safety measures are necessary, and disputes only the length of time needed to implement them," the department added.

Feldman, appointed by President Ronald Reagan in 1983, has reported extensive investments in the oil and gas industry, including owning less than $15,000 of Transocean stock, according to financial disclosure reports for 2008, the most recent available. He did not return calls Tuesday seeking more information about his investments.

Several companies, including Shell and Marathon Oil, said they would await the outcome of any appeals before they start drilling again.

Asked about it Wednesday on NBC's "Today" show, BP Managing Director Bob Dudley said his company will "step back" from the issue while it investigates the rig explosion.

BP said Wednesday that Dudley has been appointed to head the new Gulf Coast Restoration Organization, which is in charge of cleaning up the spill. He takes over from BP CEO Tony Hayward, who has been widely criticized for his handling of the crisis.

Copyright 2010 The Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.

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