Oil Spill: The Well Is Dead

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Looks like Ecocentric may need to find something new to write about. On Sunday morning retired Coast Guard Admiral Thad Allen—who may need to find a new job soon—made it official: BP’s blown Macondo well has now been killed. After the long-awaited relief well successfully intersected the original well a couple of days ago, it was just a matter of finishing the cementing job. After carrying out pressure tests overnight, Allen gave the word this morning:

After months of extensive operations planning and execution under the direction and authority of the U.S. government science and engineering teams, BP has successfully completed the relief well by intersecting and cementing the well nearly 18,000 feet below the surface.  With this development, which has been confirmed by the Department of the Interior’s Bureau of Ocean Energy Management, we can finally announce that the Macondo 252 well is effectively dead.   Additional regulatory steps will be undertaken but we can now state, definitively, that the Macondo well poses no continuing threat to the Gulf of Mexico.

So just shy of five months after the Deepwater Horzion exploded—killing 11 men and beginning the worst oil spill in U.S. history—the well really is dead. I’ve already described what an impressive engineering feat the relief well was, and BP and its colleagues in the government deserve credit for what they pulled off (eventually).

But as Allen pointed out himself, the response doesn’t end with the end of the relief well:

I commend the response personnel, both from the government and private sectors, for seeing this vital procedure through to the end.  And although the well is now dead, we remain committed to continue aggressive efforts to clean up any additional oil we may see going forward.

The people of the Gulf coast—especially in Louisiana, which is still struggling to get back on its feet—will hold Allen to his word. Here’s what Forrest Travirca in Port Fourchon told the New Orleans Times-Picayune:

All the brown spots and patches you’ll see on this beach for the next nine miles is oil, too… And if you dig down a few inches or a few feet, you’ll see oil, too. And if you walk into that marsh back there, you’ll find oil.

So don’t tell me we dodged any bullets. Or that it wasn’t so bad. ‘Cause I’ve been out there every day since May dealing with all that oil we dodged. It just makes my blood boil.

Though scientists—and lawyers—will continue to debate the scale of the damage along the coastline, and the long-term effects on fisheries and other natural resources, the immediate concern is the pace of economic compensation. And that process unfolding in a rather similar fashion to the relief well—promises of quick success, followed by delays and backtracking. Though Kenneth Feinberg—now in charge of the $20 billion oil spill compensation fund—promised that individuals would receive emergency claims in just 48 hours, the reality has been much slower. Just another reminder this oil spill will be with us a long, long time.