Nightly News   |  May 03, 2010

Oil heads to shore as BP works to contain spill

There are still no confirmed reports of oil ashore in the South, although scientists say its volume is growing. BP says it could have a containment dome to cap the leak ready to ship out as soon as Tuesday. NBC’s Lester Holt reports.

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This content comes from a Full-Text Transcript of the program.

BRIAN WILLIAMS, anchor (Venice, Louisiana): Good evening from Venice , Louisiana . Tonight this region of the country, which has been forced to endure so much over the past few years, is being punished once again. Out in the gulf behind us there is an oil slick the size of the state of Delaware . We got lucky here today. A combination of pelting, driving rain and favorable winds and seas has kept it from being a significant landfall. That luck may hold for a while. This is tomorrow's projection out in the gulf. And every second more oil comes out of the underground well and belches into the gulf waters. While it may feel like Louisiana is dodging a bullet so far, in a way it's just that that bullet is getting larger. We have a lot of news to cover here tonight. We begin right here with Lester Holt , who's been here with us covering this story all day. Lester, good evening .

LESTER HOLT reporting: Brian , good evening . The Coast Guard and government scientists say those chemical dispersant agents they have been putting underwater at the site of the leak appear to be holding a lot of that oil underwater. It's not reaching the surface. And while that is helping to change the appearance of the slick itself, it is not stopping the flow of oil. Despite predictions the oil spill would hit Louisiana last weekend, there are still no confirmed reports of oil ashore. The latest map from NOAA shows the massive oil slick at first glance appears to have shrunk. Scientists say winds and high seas are breaking it up, but the volume of oil is still growing.

Mr. DAVID WESLEY (NOAA): When it comes to -- or if it comes to shore, it's not going to come in as one big blob, it's really going to come in as like patches of streamers.

HOLT: Today BP , which leased the now destroyed oil rig , says improving weather allowed it to get more ships into the area, and last night it was able to start drilling one of two relief wells at the site. The company's CEO, appearing on "Today" this morning, accepted responsibility for the oil and cleanup, but shifted blame for the actual accident.

Mr. TONY HAYWARD (BP CEO): The drilling rig was a Transocean drilling rig. It was their rig and their equipment that failed, run by their people with their processes.

HOLT: Today on its Web site , BP says it is "committed to pay legitimate and objectively verifiable claims for other loss and damage caused by the spill ." Fishermen are just beginning to feel the pinch, with the government yesterday banning fishing across a huge stretch of the gulf. Fearful that more waters could soon be declared off limits, these oystermen are harvesting their catch with a new sense of urgency.

Mr. MITCH JURISICH: Our estuary right now is in very, very grave danger .

HOLT: Yesterday Mitch Jurisich was among a group of fishermen expressing their concerns to President Obama . Today he was back on his boat hauling in oysters, a race against the migrating tide of oil.

Mr. JURISICH: If they can't cap this off, you know, we're fearful that we're the next in line to close.

HOLT: BP says it could have a huge containment domes they had been building ready to ship out to the site as soon as tomorrow night . Once in place, possibly by the weekend, they hope to pump out some of the leaking oil and maybe just give some of this fragile coastline a fighting chance . And late this afternoon, the CEO of BP sat down with Homeland Security Secretary Napolitano and Interior Secretary Salazar to update them on the progress of the capping and containment operation, and to coordinate, Brian , the government response with them.

WILLIAMS: And now let's talk about the weather because late today the Web site, which is the Times-Picayune 's newspaper in New Orleans , is talking about this pelting rain perhaps breaking the oil up into smaller droplets and kind of parking it offshore more than it would've naturally come in shore yet.

HOLT: We consulted our own expert, who says one of the things happening right now, it's in a place where the current really isn't moving very much. And that is kind of holding it in position. And the winds are going to turn even more favorable tomorrow, but we understand late in the week the onshore wind will return. It could be a little stronger. This area is not out of the woods in any one -- form.

WILLIAMS: Yeah. As we said, we may be putting off the inevitable here. Lester Holt , as always, thanks.