The oil spill that resulted from a British Petroleum rig exploding in the Gulf of Mexico is still continuing unabated, and many scientists are now saying that BP and the Obama administration are downplaying the amount of oil that is gushing into the water. The joint BP-federal command has been relying on an estimate from NOAA scientists that the oil rate was increasing by 210,000 gallons (5000 barrels) a day, but independent scientists estimate that the flow rate is at least 850,000 gallons a day.
This week, a flurry of environmental organizations, members of Congress, and local officials in the states affected by the spill called for the federal government to take over the response effort from BP. “This is an all-hands-on-deck crisis, and we need to use every asset the U.S. has, including the Defense Department and all of its most sophisticated technology,” said Rep. Ed Markey (D-MA).
Today, on CBS’ Face the Nation, Sen. Lamar Alexander (R-TN) — who spends a lot of his time fearmongering about various government takeovers — seemed to advocate that the government simply let BP off the hook and take over the clean-up effort:
Alexander: There’s one thing [the administration] could do. Under the law, they could fire BP and take it over. But the truth is the federal government probably doesn’t have the capacity to do that. [...]
Q: But would you favor taking over BP if that became necessary?
Alexander: Sure, that’s up to the President to decide. … Under the law the federal government can take it over if they choose. And I understand why they might not choose, but that option exists.
Last week, BP CEO Tony Hayward said that he expects the environmental impact of the disaster will be “very, very modest.” But as The Wonk Room’s Brad Johnson pointed out, “already, toxic sludge has started to ooze onto Louisiana’s fragile wetlands, and oil globs and tar balls have been found on barrier islands and beaches along the northeastern Gulf Coast. The federal government closed 19 percent of the Gulf to fishing on Monday when the slick doubled in size, caught by the Loop Current that is now dragging oil to the Florida Keys.”
The headline in this post has been changed.