May 31, 2010: Markey Queries BP on Plume Denial

Company Claims Underwater Clouds of Oil Do Not Exist; Chairman Asks for Evidence

WASHINGTON (May 31, 2010) -- Following media reports where BP CEO Tony Hayward claimed that BP had found "no evidence" of underwater oil plumes, even though they have been discovered and documented by scientists, Rep. Edward J. Markey (D-Mass.) today sent a letter of inquiry to Hayward asking for documentation to substantiate his claims.

"BP in this instance means 'Blind to Plumes,'" said Rep. Markey, chair of the Energy and Environment Subcommittee in the Energy and Commerce Committee, which is leading an investigation into the BP oil spill.

"The confirmation of the presence of large quantities of oil sub-surface could help to inform clean-up and response efforts, and it is vital that there is unfettered access to all relevant data or analysis," writes Markey in his letter to Hayward.

Rep. Markey notes that University of South Florida researchers recently found a 22 mile long plume of dispersed oil. Many independent news organizations have also taken footage of these plumes, which some scientists believe may be related to the use of dispersants.

The full text of the letter can be found below:
______________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________

May 31, 2010

Mr. Lamar McKay
President and CEO
BP America, Inc.
510 Westlake Park Boulevard
Houston, Texas  70779
 
Dear Mr. McKay:

I write to request information regarding statements that BP CEO Tony Hayward reportedly made yesterday, in which he asserted that all oil being spewed from the gushing Deepwater Horizon well is on the surface of the ocean, and not dispersed in vast, undersea plumes as some independent scientists have found.

As you know, several scientists have independently found large volumes of oil under the surface of water, and some have speculated that these may have been formed as a result of the use of dispersants sub-surface.  For example, the University of South Florida College of Marine Science recently reported that it found a 22 mile long undersea plume of dispersed oil at a location that raised concern about its proximity to the food chain for sea life in the waters of Florida. Other researchers have found similar evidence of such plumes.

However, according to media reports, Mr. Hayward stated yesterday that BP’s samples showed “no evidence” that oil was suspended sub-surface in this manner, going on to state that:

"The oil is on the surface. Oil has a specific gravity that's about half that of water. It wants to get to the surface because of the difference in specific gravity."

The confirmation of the presence of large quantities of oil sub-surface could help to inform clean-up and response efforts, and it is vital that there is unfettered access to all relevant data or analysis.   Consequently, I ask that you provide me with the following:

Copies of all measurements, calculations or other supporting materials on which Mr. Hayward based his statements regarding the existence of sub-surface plumes of oil (including indications of BP’ s methodology or any observational equipment used).

2)    Any additional information on which Mr. Hayward based his statements.

Please provide these materials to me no later than close of business on Friday  June 4, 2010.  If you have any questions or concerns, or to arrange for delivery of the requested materials, please have your staff contact Dr. Michal Freedhoff of the Energy and Environment Subcommittee staff at 202-225-2836.

                    Sincerely,

                    Edward J. Markey
                                                                Chairman
Subcommittee on Energy and Environment            

Cc:    Chairman Henry Waxman
Ranking Member Joe Barton
Ranking Member Fred Upton