Oil Leak in Gulf Worse Than Estimated, BP Takes Some Responsibility

Leak now estimated at 5,000 barrels a day; Coast Guard tries risky burn.

ByABC News via logo
April 28, 2010, 11:37 AM

April 29, 2010 — -- With five times more oil leaking into the Gulf of Mexico than originally estimated and the price tag for last week's explosion predicted at $8 billion, questions about BP's response and level of responsibility are mounting.

Doug Suttles, the energy company's chief operating officer, admitted some responsibility for the disaster "because we're the lease holder," but assigning blame, he said, should come after the cleanup.

"I can tell you we're not worried about that right now," he said. "Who's ultimately responsible for what will come out over time through an investigations process."

The new leak estimate is about 5,000 barrels a day, according to the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration. Suttles told "Good Morning America" he still believes it to be between 1,000 barrels -- the company's original estimate -- and 5,000.

The Deepwater Horizon rig was reportedly not equipped with a shutoff switch that could have been used to try to close the well. Such switches are not required in the United States, but are used in other countries such as Norway and Brazil.

But Suttles said the rig was equipped with some safety devices that should have prevented this kind of spill.

"They didn't do that, we don't know why they didn't do that and ultimately we will find out," he said.

Suttles was quick to point out that another company was operating the rig at the time of the explosion, not London-based BP.

"I can say that we had equipment required by the regulations," he said. "We don't know why, when the accident occurred, and I should probably clarify, the lease we are drilling on is owed by BP and a few other companies."

Parts of the massive spill were lit on fire Wednesday as part of a controlled yet risky burn as a last resort to try and stop the oil slick from reaching the coastline.

"It's not a perfect solution," said Jackie Savitz Sr., campaign director for the Oceana Pollution Program. "It does increase air pollution and it can cause inhalation problems for marine life."

Officials may try another burn but it appears the oil will reach the coastline, threatening as many as 400 species, including sea turtles and dolphins. The Gulf's abundant oyster and shrimping grounds could also be affected.

Suttles said BP is actively working with the Gulf states to minimize the impact.

Some floating oil has come within 20 miles of shore. Adm. Thad W. Allen, commandant of the U.S. Coast Guard, told reporters in Miami today that depending on winds and weather, crews might have two to three days before oil hits land.