Newspaper article The Christian Science Monitor

Current Timeline to Shut Down Gulf of Mexico Oil Spill: Three Months

Newspaper article The Christian Science Monitor

Current Timeline to Shut Down Gulf of Mexico Oil Spill: Three Months

Article excerpt

Federal officials gave a sobering appraisal of the Gulf of Mexico oil spill Sunday, with Interior Secretary Ken Salazar saying 'ultimate relief' was 90 days away.

Federal officials speaking about the Gulf of Mexico oil spill Sunday morning appeared to be steeling the Louisiana coast - and the nation - for consequences that could be "catastrophic."

The officials, who run the agencies charged with mitigating the impact of the spill on America's Gulf coast, used unusually stark words to describe the situation and the difficulties of the remedy.

Interior Secretary Ken Salazar said it was the federal government's job to "keep the boot on the neck of BP," which is running the cleanup effort.

IN PICTURES: Louisiana oil spill

Coast Guard Commandant Thad Allen called the bid to shut down a wellhead spewing at least 210,000 gallons of oil a day from nearly a mile beneath the ocean surface "one of the most complex things we've every done."

He went on to say that, in a worst-case scenario, the well could vent 4.2 million gallons of oil into the Gulf daily. Currently, a crumpled "riser" pipe is preventing the full flow of oil - like a kinked garden hose - though reports suggest it is gradually deteriorating.

The comments were prelude to President Obama arriving in Louisiana Sunday to assess the situation.

How to shut down the well?

Both the comments and Mr. Obama's impromptu visit suggest that the White House is trying to head off the criticisms that befell the Bush Administration after hurricane Katrina - that it was slow to engage federal agencies.

Yet they also gave the impression of a government facing a challenge of such complexity and enormity that it was not sure what, really, could be done to shut down the source of the disaster in the short term.

"The spill in indeterminate," said Allen on CNN's "State of the Union."

Unlike the Exxon Valdez disaster, where a tanker with a known amount of oil ran aground off Alaska, an oil pocket was opened when the Deepwater Horizon oil rig sank after exploding April 20. …

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