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The Select Committee on Energy Independence and Global Warming addressed our nation's energy, economic and national security challenges during the 110th and 111th Congresses.

This is an archived version of the committee's website, where the public, students and the media can continue to access and learn from our work.

Markey: As NOAA Confirms Plumes Again, BP Denies Plumes…Again

Chairman Releases Letters, Documents from BP Challenging Company’s Ongoing Denial of Plumes

(June 23, 2010) – Following the release of a government analysis showing, yet again, the existence of undersea plumes of oil from the BP oil spill, Rep. Edward J. Markey (D-Mass.) today released documents he obtained from BP related to their denial of these plumes. The documents, and the follow-up letter from Rep. Markey to BP CEO Tony Hayward, include some of the preliminary information used in this government analysis to show the existence of plumes, even as BP continued to deny the presence of the underwater clouds of oil.

“NOAA and the EPA have confirmed these plumes exist. Independent scientists have confirmed these plumes exist. Will it take a submarine ride to show these BP executives that these plumes exist?” asked Rep. Markey.

Even after pointed questioning from Rep. Markey at an Energy and Commerce hearing on June 17th, Hayward continued to equivocate on the existence of undersea plumes, prompting Rep. Markey, who is chair of the Energy and Environment Subcommittee, to write another letter to Hayward asking for more evidence to support his company’s claims. Rep. Markey is also today releasing the initial documents acquired from BP that they claimed backed up their position that there are no plumes.

Many experts have raised concerns about these plumes’ potential to cause significant harm to aquatic life in the Gulf of Mexico. This can occur via two mechanisms.  First, the toxic constituents of oil and dispersants can poison the aquatic plants and animals that are exposed to them, leading to death, non-lethal harm to species, or contamination of the marine food chain. Second, as naturally-occurring bacteria consume the oil dispersed in the plumes and multiply, they also use up oxygen, and this can in turn lead to localized depletions in oxygen levels that could cause marine life to die of asphyxiation. Oxygen depleted at the depths that these plumes have been found can take years to replenish, causing long-term damage to the deep Gulf ecosystem.

Rep. Markey had originally written to BP on May 31, 2010 asking BP to substantiate Hayward’s claim the day before that BP samples showed “no evidence” that oil was suspended sub-surface.

Among BP’s evidence provided to Rep. Markey is data from the R/V Brooks McCall, one of the main sources of data for the joint government analysis released today. And yet, BP’s response omits information publicly available on EPA’s website that used BP’s own data. BP also submitted data for tests done west of the well site, but ignored independent analysis that had been conducted east of the well site.

“In short, it appears as though once again, BP is making questionable assertions using flawed and incomplete analysis in order to minimize the potential harm its leak has caused and may cause going forward,” Rep. Markey said.


PLEASE NOTE: The House Select Committee on Energy Independence and Global Warming was created to explore American clean energy solutions that end our reliance on foreign oil and reduce carbon pollution.

The Select Committee was active during the 110th and 111th Congresses. This is an archived version of the website, to ensure that the public has ongoing access to the Select Committee record. This website, including external links, will not be updated after Jan. 3rd, 2010.

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