Guilty of Serial Low-Balling, Again!


The latest revelation about oil-flow estimates came Sunday on NBC’s “Meet the Press” when host David Gregory spoke to U.S. Rep. Ed Markey (D-MA), chairman of the Select Committee on Energy Independence and Global Warming.

Mr. Gregory: “Congressman Markey, we’ve got this live image on the, the, the seafloor that shows the belching oil into the Gulf. In many ways, this could become an iconic image of this presidency politically. But, substantively, there’s a question of the oil flow.”

Then the newsman breaks it down, noting that the BP estimates have been frustrating at best: “You go back to April 24th, they said no, it’s 1,000 barrels per day; April 28th, oh, no, it’s 5,000 per day; May 27th, no, 12,000 to 19,000; June 10th, 20,000 to 40,000; we find out June 15th 35,000 to 60,000. Now the president’s out there saying 90 percent contained by the end of the month. Do you actually think that that flow, that rate of oil goes up before it goes down?”

Rep. Markey suggested BP has likely been low-balling all along: “Right now, again, we’re dependent upon BP and the execution of their capacity to be able to put a cap over this well. I actually have a document that shows that BP actually believes it could go upwards of 100,000 barrels per day, which would be about four million gallons a day. So again, right from the beginning, BP was either lying or grossly incompetent. First they said it was only 1,000 barrels, then they said it was 5,000 barrels, now we’re up to 100,000 barrels. It was their technology, it was their spill cam, they’re the ones that should have known right from the beginning; and either to limit their liability or because they were grossly incompetent, they delayed a full response to the magnitude of this disaster.”

All told, the Exxon Valdez spill was just shy of 11 million gallons. At 4 million gallons a day, the Gulf spill would eclipse the Exxon Valdez before lunch on the third day. How do we explain the 99,000 barrel-a-day difference between BP’s initial estimate and the new revelation of a potential 100,000 barrels? According to Markey, BP was either lying all along or just grossly incompetent. I’m not sure which is worse, but either way, it’s not a company I would trust to do the right thing at any point in this process moving forward.

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Stuart H. Smith is an attorney based in New Orleans fighting major oil companies and other polluters.
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