In addition to White House press secretary Robert Gibbs, we were joined at the briefing today by Secretary Janet Napolitano of the Department of Homeland Security; Rear Admiral Sally Brice-O’Hara, Deputy Commandant for Operations at the US Coast guard; David Hayes, Deputy Secretary of the Department of the Interior; Lisa Jackson, Administrator of the Environmental Protection Agency; Carol Browner, Assistant to the President for Energy and Climate Change; and Dr. Jane Lubchenco, Under Secretary of Commerce for Oceans and Atmosphere, and Administrator of the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration.
TAPPER: Madame Secretary, what do the people who live in the affected region, especially the Louisiana Delta, which is about to hit — hit the coast the next day — what do they need to know?
SECRETARY NAPOLITANO: Well, first of all, that the parish presidents and others have been working with us, and we have been working with them, very closely. We understand the concern — the concern about fisheries area, the concern about other commercial activities that happen there. Sensitive environmental areas are involved. They need to know that there has already been a significant amount of booming to protect those areas from oil sheen that may not have evaporated or been skimmed. They need to know those efforts will be ongoing and continuing. They also need to know that we will be open and transparent with them. They need to know that there is already a BP system set up for them to file claims for their own individual damages. We will oversee that, as well. And they need to know that we will be staying on top of this as long as this incident is ongoing.
TAPPER: If I could just do a quick follow-up, and that is, apparently BP was estimating the spillage was 1,000 barrels a day. And you guys think it’s five times that. Why do you think BP was so off in their estimate?
ADMIRAL BRICE-O’HARA: I’m going to turn to my partner from NOAA and let her — Dr. Lubchenco — speak to some of the science. But I would tell you that we are at very deep depths. It’s very hard to assess accurately, given where this is located. There are signs. We can see the fluid that’s emanating from the places in the riser pipe that have been perforated. We know what that is in terms of temperature, and what the volume may be that’s coming out. So it’s an estimate, a best estimate, that was worked in consultation with British Petroleum, but also with the scientific support coordinator. But then, as we move through time and we see the product on the surface, there’s additional information that can be determined from the appearance. And I’ll turn it to you to pick up there, Dr. Lubchenco.
ADMINSTRATOR LUBCHENCO: I’m Dr. Lubchenco, Jane Lubchenco, administrator of NOAA, National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration. What the admiral says is absolutely correct. It’s very difficult under these circumstances to have any precise estimate. There is no one magic number. The initial calculations — there was agreement among BP and NOAA scientists that the likely approximate rate of flow was around 1,000 barrels a day. It quickly became obvious however that there was more oil accumulating at the surface than would be possible at that flow rate. have since redone those calculations taking into account aerial observations using satellite and aircraft. So how much total area at the surface is being covered? What is the type of oil? What is the distribution of it? It doesn’t cover 100 percent of the surface. It’s often in cornrows and streams. So what is the percent area coverage? And then you subtract from that the burning that has been done with the platform and the oil on the surface, with the controlled burn for example, the application of dispersants, skimming operations and in situ.
And you can come up with a number that is then averaged over the total number of days. And so the revised upward estimate of 5,000 barrels per day that was announced last night is a reflection of those calculations.
It’s quite likely we will continue to pay close attention to what is on the surface and to do these numbers. And there may be estimates, revised estimates, down the road. But this is — simply observing where the oil is coming out is insufficient to really calculate any flow rate with any degree of accuracy.