Coast Guard: BP using all technical means it can

WASHINGTON (AP) - BP is exhausting every possibility to plug the devastating oil spill in the Gulf of Mexico, Coast Guard Commandant Thad Allen said Monday...

WASHINGTON (AP) — BP is exhausting every possibility to plug the devastating oil spill in the Gulf of Mexico, Coast Guard Commandant Thad Allen said Monday, indicating he could not push the company aside even if he wanted to.

“To push BP out of the way, it would raise the question, to replace them with what?” Allen, who’s heading the government response to the spill, told reporters at a White House briefing.

The White House is facing increasing questions about why the government cannot exercise more control over the catastrophe as oil still spurts into the Gulf weeks after the drilling rig BP was leasing caught fire and sank.

None of BP’s attempts to stop the leak so far has succeeded, and local officials on the Gulf coast, along with scientists and others, are growing increasingly frustrated with the company and skeptical of its efforts. They’ve also accused the federal government of deferring too much to BP.

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Allen said federal law dictated that BP PLC had to operate the cleanup, with the federal government overseeing its efforts.

“They’re exhausting every technical means possible to deal with that leak,” Allen said. “I am satisfied with the coordination that’s going on.”

He added: “There’s no reason to make a change” in leadership of the spill response.

Allen said the oil spill is an unprecedented event, and the government is defining its role in the response “as we go.” While the government has veto power over BP officials’ decisions as they try to stop the flow of oil, Allen said the government does not have everything needed to solve the problem.

BP “owns the means of production,” he said. “We ask a lot of hard questions.”

Allen said he hasn’t yet exercised “a firm veto” over any of BP’s approaches.

Interior Secretary Ken Salazar suggested over the weekend that the government could intervene aggressively if BP wasn’t delivering. “If we find that they’re not doing what they’re supposed to be doing, we’ll push them out of the way appropriately,” Salazar had said.

Asked about that comment, Allen said, “That’s more of a metaphor.”

The leak has been gushing at least 210,000 gallons (795,000 liters) a day into the fragile Gulf ecosystem since a couple days after the Deepwater Horizon rig caught fire April 20, killing 11 workers before sinking. The exact cause remains unknown and it is also not clear why an emergency shut-off system called a “blowout preventer” failed.

“There was an assumption that these blowout preventers were fail-safe. We know that’s not true,” Allen said.

After the spill, President Barack Obama directed Salazar to conduct a 30-day safety review of the safety of offshore drilling. That report will be delivered to the president Thursday, said White House press secretary Robert Gibbs. Gibbs said Obama would discuss it and take questions from the media.

Gibbs also said the president might make a return visit to the Gulf Coast; he has traveled there once since the spill, on May 2.

Meanwhile, BP continued Monday to spray a toxic chemical dispersant to break up the oil spill, even though a deadline to stop use of the chemical had passed.

The Environmental Protection Agency directed BP last week to find an alternative to a dispersant called Corexit 9500 that has been identified as a “moderate” human health hazard. The product can cause eye, skin or respiratory irritation with prolonged exposure, safety documents show.

Corexit was on a list of approved dispersants available to BP after the oil spill, but federal officials said Thursday that much about the dispersant about remains unknown.

The EPA directed BP to use a less toxic dispersant to break up the oil as of Sunday night. The company told the government over the weekend that no better alternative was available.


Associated Press writers Matthew Daly, Julie Pace, Darlene Superville and Ben Feller contributed to this report.

Copyright 2010 The Associated Press.

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