BP Oil Spill Day 35: Is It Time to Push BP Aside?

The government threatens to take over if BP does not make progress.

May 21, 2010, 1:58 PM

May 24, 2010— -- Frustration along the Gulf Coast is mounting and the government has threatened to take over the cleanup process in the Gulf of Mexico if BP does not make progress soon as the oil spill enters its fifth week.

"If we find that they're not doing what they're supposed to be doing, we'll push them out of the way appropriately and we'll move forward to make sure that everything is being done to protect the people of the Gulf Coast," Secretary of the Interior Ken Salazar said Sunday.

BP acknowledged that the government is not happy with the progress in capping the underwater gusher so far, but said the government's position "is no different from our own view."

"We are putting everything we know how to do at this. We've got the best people, the best scientists with us from our own company or across the industry or from government," BP COO Doug Suttles said on "GMA." "I think everyone is frustrated, we're frustrated, clearly the secretary [Salazar] is and they want us to get this done as quickly as we can."

The impact from the spill has affected 150 miles and the oil has pushed 12 miles into the heart of Louisiana's mashes and wet lands. Although the government has threatened to take over the cleanup process, officials have acknowledged that BP has more expertise.

Today Homeland Security Secretary Janet Napolitano and Secretary Salazar will lead a Senate delegation to check on BP's progress.

At least six million gallons of oil have been spilled, although some scientists argue it is much more than that.

BP said the scale of damage is unknown and they "will be monitoring that for many decades."

Last week BP successfully siphoned off more than a half a million gallons of the oil using a mile-long tube, but that rate has been reduced because of the amount of gas also coming out of the well, according to BP.

"We continue to try to get the tool placed even more precisely inside this piece of pipe. We are averaging a little less than 2,000 barrels of oils of a day. Now, that is good because that is 2,000 barrels that doesn't spill," Suttles said.

BP had hoped to attempt a "top kill" approach to block the well head using mud and cement Sunday, but that has since been delayed until Wednesday, Suttles said.

"The challenge here is…doing things in 5,000 feet of water. What looked like a fairly simple task, when you have to do those with those robotic submarines -- even small things sometimes can take longer than we estimate," Suttles said.

BP has "other options" to pursue if the top kill approach does not work. Suttles said ultimately he hopes the spill will not be "catastrophic" because "there have been oil spills in the Gulf of Mexico, there are natural seeps in the Gulf of Mexico and that environment seems to recover from those things."

The once pristine breeding grounds for dozens of species of birds and other wildlife along the Gulf coast have been ruined from the spill.

At least two major rookeries for brown pelicans, the Louisiana state bird, are now awash in crude.

The frustration felt along the Gulf is not only aimed at BP, but also the government.

"Shame on them…shame on the Coast Guard, BP, the Corp, all of them," said Billy Nungesser, a Plaquemines Parish president.

Louisiana Governor Bobby Jindal expressed his impatience for the recovery efforts. Jindal hopes that a chain of sand berms, large barriers of sand, will keep the oil 50 miles from the coast, but said the federal government has been slow to approve the plan.

"We've been waiting for a decision for our dredging, sand berm plan from the US Army Corp of Engineers for nearly two weeks," Jindal said.

"The idea is on our own, we're going to move forward, even in the absence of approval for dredge, we're going to move forward," Jindal said.

The hardest moment has been "watching it all come in" and knowing that they haven't stopped the oil yet, one Gulf Coast shrimper told Diane Sawyer.

"How can you start a clean-up effort when you haven't stopped the problem yet?" the shrimper asked.

The Associated Press contributed to this report.

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