OFFSHORE DRILLING:

BP's plan for spill riddled with errors

In the event of a spill in the Gulf of Mexico, BP PLC could consult Professor Peter Lutz as a wildlife specialist, according to the oil company's 582-page regional spill plan. There is just one problem: Peter Lutz, though indeed an expert on sea turtles, had been dead for four years when the plan was published.

That error is just one of many glaring mistakes and omissions in the company's spill plan, as well as its 52-page plan written specifically for the Deepwater Horizon rig, according to an analysis by the Associated Press.

The plan listed walruses, sea otters, sea lions and seals as "sensitive biological resources," but none of them lives near the Gulf. The names and phone numbers of wildlife experts to be reached in the case of a spill are wrong. The marine mammal rescue centers listed in Louisiana and Florida are no longer in operation.

Overall, the company claimed to be able to handle a spill 10 times worse than the one caused by the Deepwater Horizon accident. While the company's computer modeling projected a 21 percent chance of oil reaching Louisiana within a month of a spill, it took nine days for an oily sheen to reach the mouth of the Mississippi River after the Deepwater Horizon rig exploded.

"Many of the questions you raise are exactly those questions that will be examined and answered by the presidential commission as well as other investigations into BP's oil spill," said Kendra Barkoff, a spokeswoman for Interior Secretary Ken Salazar.

BP responded to questions about the plan by saying there may be room for improvement.

"We expect that a complete review of the regional response plans and planning process will take place as part of the overall incident investigation so that we can determine what worked well and what needs improvement," BP spokesman Daren Beaudo said. "Thus far we have implemented the largest spill response in history and many, many elements of it have worked well. However, we are greatly disappointed that oil has made landfall and impacted shorelines and marshes. The situation we are dealing with is clearly complex, unprecedented and will offer us much to learn from" (Lush/Mohr/Pritchard, Associated Press, June 9). -- GN

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