May 31, 2010: Markey to BP: Make All Video Feeds Available

Ample Video Coverage Also Needed to Assess New Flow Following Cutting of Riser Pipe, Says Chairman

WASHINGTON (May 31, 2010) -- Citing the lag time in information given to the public during the failed "top kill" attempt to seal the still-spilling BP oil well, and some discrepancies in camera angles and availability during those operations, Rep. Edward J. Markey (D-Mass.) today reiterated his desire for complete transparency from BP regarding the video feeds from their company's underwater operations."We cannot tolerate any delay or gaps in our understanding of the spill site, given that thousands of barrels of oil are spewing forth each day into the gulf, with catastrophic long-term consequences," writes Rep. Markey in a letter to BP America head Lamar McKay. "We need to see for ourselves in real time the effects of the severing of the pipe and to be able to continue to monitor that situation throughout the crisis."

As BP readies to sever the sunken riser pipe in advance of the new strategy to attach a new containment effort, Rep. Markey expresses particular concern in the letter about obtaining an accurate assessment of the rate of the spill after the riser is cut. While BP has asserted there should be no change in the flow of oil, Obama administration officials and others have expressed skepticism regarding that prediction, as the bent riser was potentially providing counteractive force on the spill, reducing the size.

"As I and others have noted to you repeatedly, getting an accurate assessment of flow rate is essential for crafting an appropriate spill response—therefore it is equally essential that video data be available to us all, including the flow rate technical committee and other outside experts, for full evaluation of the true situation," writes Markey in the letter.

The full text of the letter is pasted below:

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May 31, 2010

Mr. Lamar McKay
President and CEO
BP America, Inc.
510 Westlake Park Boulevard
Houston, Texas  70779
 
Dear Mr. McKay:
 
Last week, on May 24, I wrote a letter to you regarding the need for BP to maintain complete transparency regarding its operations to stop the flow of oil at the Deepwater Horizon accident site, 5000 feet beneath the surface of the Gulf of Mexico. As I noted in that letter, BP is capturing live footage from multiple cameras at the accident site and in order to get a clear picture of the true situation, the American public and the news media needs to be able to see all cameras operating in real time, in the same way that BP executives and engineers, and others involved in accident operations, are able to see such operations. There is no excuse for not providing us this basic information. 
 
The need for such information was apparent during the recent “top kill” operation, when BP suspended pumping of mud at certain points of the project, attempted to use “bridging material” as part of a “junk shot” and made numerous other tactical decisions during the process, without providing clarity to the public and news media at the time such decisions were happening.  That is unacceptable, given the very high stakes involved in this disaster and the right we all have to know whether your actions are proceeding according to plan and as projected.  There cannot be any delay or gaps in our understanding of this situation, given that thousands of barrels of oil are spewing forth each day into the gulf, with catastrophic long-term consequences.  
 
Therefore, I am reiterating my request that, from now on, all cameras be made available in live streaming feed to the public and news media.  In this regard, I note that the view of the feed does not always seem to include all cameras, since at times camera shots appear on the single live feed that is publicly available, but do not also appear on the multi-camera view screen you have provided to me.  BP should not be controlling the view the American public has of this disaster in our ocean.  
 
Yesterday, BP Executive Bob Dudley suggested that the severing of the broken marine riser from the blowout preventer would likely not change “significantly” the rate of oil flowing from the well.  However, government representatives, including Assistant to the President, Carol M. Browner, have suggested that severing of the riser pipe could increase the flow by up to 20%.   As I have communicated to you repeatedly, getting an accurate estimate of the flow rate is essential in ensuring an appropriate spill response—therefore it is equally essential that video data be available to us all, including the flow rate technical group and other outside experts, for full evaluation of the true situation.  All parties need to see for themselves in real time the effects of the severing of the pipe and to be able to continue to monitor that situation throughout the crisis. 
 
I want to continue to make clear that in seeking such live video feed, I do not want to compromise operations or affect the integrity of the video feed.  However, I believe that the streaming that you have provided to date has demonstrated that you are able to provide such feeds without any such effects.  
 
Finally, I am reiterating my request that all video be time-stamped and dated, available in easy to access, multiple formats and that it all be archived, with the archived footage being provided to me as soon as possible.   It was my understanding from your staff that such archived footage would be provided to me immediately after the “top kill” operation.  I have not received any such footage. As we continue to investigate all aspects of BP’s response to this crisis, in the days and weeks ahead, access to this information will be critical to ensuring that we have nothing less than the complete picture.  
 
I would appreciate your prompt response to this letter. 
 
                                                                                    Sincerely,
 

          
                                                                        Edward J. Markey
                                                                            Chairman
Subcommittee on Energy and Environment            

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