A summary of notable events for Thursday, June 10, Day 51 of the Gulf of Mexico oil spill.
FACE TO FACE
President Barack Obama met at the White House with relatives of the 11 rig workers killed in the April 20 explosion and said he won't forget them. Keith Jones, whose son died in the blast, wore a blue ribbon pinned to his lapel with "Deepwater Horizon" written in yellow and 11 yellow stars — one for each victim.
Asked by reporters about criticism that Obama was too hands-off in the weeks immediately after the disaster, Jones sounded supportive of the president. "I don't know what people expected the president to do exactly, if they want him to go out there and wash pelicans. He's the president. He's not someone who cleans beaches. It's important for us Louisianans to know that we have his support and I think he's communicated that."
Obama also invited BP Chairman Carl-Henric Svanberg to meet him and senior administration officials at the White House next Wednesday.
BY THE NUMBERS
Government-appointed researchers announce that as much as twice the amount of oil than previously thought may have been spewing into the sea since the oil rig exploded nearly two months ago. The spill — before June 3 when a riser was cut and then a cap put on it — was flowing at daily rate that could possibly have been as high as 2.1 million gallons, twice the highest number the federal government had been saying, according to U.S. Geological Survey Director Marcia McNutt. No estimates were given for the amount of oil gushing from the well after June 3.
TURNING UP THE HEAT
Democratic congressional leaders demand that BP fully compensate economic victims of the Gulf spill as. House Speaker Nancy Pelosi says "every taxpayer in America must know that BP will be held accountable for what is owed." Senate Republican Leader Mitch McConnell of Kentucky agreed BP has to "clean up the spill." But he says Democratic lawmakers shouldn't use the tragedy to try to build support for an energy bill.
MEANWHILE, ACROSS THE ATLANTIC
British Prime Minister David Cameron says he’s ready to help deal with BP’s oil disaster. Speaking on a visit to Afghanistan, Cameron said, "This is an environmental catastrophe. BP needs to do everything it can to deal with the situation, and the U.K. government stands ready to help." In Britain, British lawmakers urge Cameron to get Obama to tone down his criticism of the oil company, complaining that the hostile rhetoric could destroy retirement plans for pensioners with nest eggs in the company. BP is the biggest single payer of dividends among U.K.-listed companies, and its stock price has taken a pummeling since April. See "Brits blame Obama as BP-linked pensions plummet"
WHERE'S THE CHECK?
BP agrees to expedite the payment of claims to businesses and individuals whose livelihoods have been disrupted by the oil spill. Among other things, it will drop the current practice of waiting to make such payments until businesses have closed their books for each month. See "BP will expedite claim payments"
BURN, BABY, BURN
BP hopes to set up a semi-submersible drilling rig in the Gulf by early next week to burn about 10,000 barrels daily from the oil that is being captured by a containment device. Testing will begin this weekend.
Journalists continue to be blocked from covering aspects of the spill, according to The New York Times. In one incident last week, a reporter and photographer from The Daily News of New York were told by a BP contractor they could not access a public beach on Grand Isle, La., one of the areas most heavily affected by the oil spill, the Times reported. The contractor summoned a local sheriff, who told the reporter, Matthew Lysiak, that news media had to fill out paperwork and then be escorted by a BP official to get access to the beach. "For the police to tell me I needed to sign paperwork with BP to go to a public beach?" Lysiak said. "It's just irrational."
PLUMS AND PLUMES
BPGlobalPR, a tongue-in-cheek parody of BP's official Twitter feed, has attracted more than 150,0000 followers. “Wait, Oil PLUMES? We thought you asked about oil PLUMS in the ocean. How silly! Yes, yes, there are TONS of oil plumes!” said a recent tweet. Follow the Twitter fee here.
BP STRIKES OUT
The Brevard County Manatees, a minor league baseball team, has found a novel way to express its feelings about the oil spill, the New Orleans Times-Picayune reports. Players are no longer taking batting practice, commonly known as bp. They're calling it "hitting rehearsal" instead.
WORSE THAN DEEPWATER
Just how bad is the Deepwater Horizon oil disaster? It’s not even the worst oil spill in the history of the Gulf of Mexico. Newsweek cites four environmental disasters that could be considered “worse” than the current spill: the 1984 Bhopal, India, gas leak that killed more than 3,000 people; the “Great Smog” that engulfed London for four days in December 1952, leading to an estimated 4,000 people dying in a single month from toxic air; the Ixtoc blowout of an undersea oil well in the Gulf of Mexico in 1979, in which 140 million gallons spilled; and the April 1986 Chernobyl nuclear plant explosion the released 50 tons of radioactive material into the air above Ukraine. Read the Newsweek article.
QUOTES OF THE DAY
“It’s easier for Obama to kick a British company than an American one; there will be fewer repercussions. It’s like kicking someone when they’re down.”
-- Thelma Aengenheister, 80, of Milton Keynes, England
"This is Congress at its best. Why don't we get the oil stopped, alright? Figure out what the hell when wrong, and then have the hearings and get the damn law fixed?"
-- an exasperated House Republican Leader John Boehner, talking about the recent slate of oil spill hearings on Capitol Hill