The families of the lost workers have also said that BP was slow to tell them what had happened, issuing no explanation or apology. No official announcement of any payment or reparations to the families has been announced, and several of the families have sued Transocean for their actions in relation to the events. There has been some coverage of efforts to amend the Death of the High Seas Act, which limits families’ abilities to collect damages for intangibles like the loss of care and companionship associated with the death of a loved one.
How much is all this going to cost me, and how soon?
The press has given a lot of publicity to the Obama administration’s claims that taxpayers will be in no way responsible for the cost of the oil spill. At the same time, a number of outlets have published articles that say the exact opposite.
There is a federal $75 million liability cap for incidents like this, which essentially mean that anything spent above the cap must be covered by the government, and, therefore, taxpayers. The government has implied, however, that if BP has been found to have acted irresponsibly in any way, the laws surrounding the cap are essentially null and void.
At the end of May, an Associated Press article said that government had spent $87 million so far on the cleanup; in early June, a number of outlets reported that White House had sent BP a $69 million bill for cleanup efforts.
At this point, however, no one knows how much money this the spill will cost when all is said and done. A rough estimate from Cumberland Advisors in a recent Christian Science Monitor article puts the minimum at $12.5 billion. One interesting wrinkle, pointed out in the same article, is that if the British government decides to back up BP in any way (it could be considered a “too big to fall” organization), some costs may actually fall on British taxpayers.
Realistically, we will not know for years exactly how much money was spent and who is at fault here. Despite claims from various sources indicating otherwise, it is unlikely that BP (or its partners in the Gulf) will shoulder the entire bill.
How large is the underground reservoir of oil beneath the well?
On different days in May, The New York Times and Bloomberg News reported, respectively, that BP chief executive Tony Hayward and spokesman Jon Pack had said the reservoir under the Macondo well could contain upwards of 50 million barrels of oil.
More recently, CNN ran with the less definite “tens of millions of barrels,” according to Dave Rensink, president of the American Association of Petroleum Geologists, while New York Times blogger Andrew Revkin reported:
[T]he Macondo Prospect, the name for the reservoir of oil slowly draining into the gulf — is considered a small deposit. While its dimensions remain poorly known, BP officials have estimated it contains no more than 100 million barrels of oil. That’s five days and change worth of American demand for this precious fuel.
We really do not know exactly how much oil is down there, or how much is seeping out each day.
All of this for five days of oil.
An official, definitive source for this is lacking, just as it has been for the daily flow rate of oil into the Gulf. It may be well over 25,000 barrels per day. For a truly head-spinning but highly informative roundup of the various estimates, see this this piece by the Associated Press’s Seth Borenstein.
Why is airspace over the spill area restricted to the point where journalists cannot fly over the affected territory? Why are journalists threatened with arrest by law enforcement if they dare to take pictures of dead animals?
By the end of May, some media outlets had reported that BP was being excessively strict restrictions were impeding coverage of the spill. Several articles detailed news crews being threatened with arrest or denied access to public land. Most troubling about these roadblocks for journalists is that they have been enacted by law enforcement officials. A Newsweek piece includes this telling quote: “It’s a running joke among the journalists covering the story that the words ‘Coast Guard’ affixed to any vehicle, vessel, or plane should be prefixed with ‘BP,’ ” says Charlie Varley, a Louisiana-based photographer. “It would be funny if it were not so serious.”