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BP Oil Spill May Be Worst in US History

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By Jason Beahm on May 03, 2010 3:50 PM

We have been following the story of a Transocean Ltd. oil rig, contracted to BP, which exploded off the coast of Louisiana and then sank, causing 11 deaths and massive environmental damage. As the days continue to pass by, officials now confirm that the BP oil spill may be leaking 200,000 gallons of oil or more into the ocean on a daily basis.

As the oil spill in the Gulf of Mexico comes ashore to Mississippi, residents like Ben Stone are very concerned. 

"You can get mad about this," he said. "I'm very disturbed about it."

"This could not have happened at a worse time in our history," said John Kelly, chief administrative officer of the town of Gulfport, Miss.

On April 28, Stuart Smith of New Orleans firm Smith Stag filed suit in U.S. District Court in New Orleans on behalf of commercial fishermen and shrimpers and names as defendants BP, Transocean, owner of the Deepwater Horizon drilling platform, and Halliburton Energy Services. 

Smith is wary of the changing assessment of the situation by BP. "Look at the chronology: First no oil. Then 1,000 barrels a day are leaking, then 5,000, now we hear uncontrolled release."

The Wall Street Journal is now reporting that federal regulators learned in a 2004 study that a vital piece of oil-drilling safety equipment may not function in deep-water seas, but did nothing to bolster industry requirements.

The cause of the BP oil explosion has been attributed to a "blow-out" although an official finding has not been released.

Also in 2004, a study commissioned by the MMS raised significant questions about the ability of rams to cut through the stronger pipes used in deep-water drilling. Those thicker pipes--as well as the shear rams--must withstand the enormous pressures found at 5,000 feet below sea level.

"This grim snapshot illustrates the lack of preparedness in the industry to shear and seal a well with the last line of defense against a blowout," the study said.

Several lawsuits have already been filed against BP and many more are expected to be filed in the coming months and years. Experts analyzing the BP lawsuit foresee potential environmental damages are already being estimated in billions of dollars. 

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