Congress applies pressure to BP over Gulf oil sheen

Lawmakers in Washington are applying more pressure to BP and its chief executive to give them answers about last month’s discovery of an oil slick in the Gulf of Mexico that has been traced to oil from the company’s blown-out Macondo well.

Rep. Ed Markey of Massachusetts and Rep. Henry Waxman of California, both of whom led investigations of the British oil giant following the 2010 Deepwater Horizon disaster off Louisiana, sent a letter to CEO Robert Dudley on Tuesday seeking a briefing by Oct. 30 on the company’s investigation.

They want to know the size of the leak, verification that the oil came from a piece of equipment associated with the well as BP believes, and assurances BP is cleaning up the oil and repairing and damage caused by the slick. Among other things, the lawmakers are seeking documents, maps, underwater camera footage and other materials related to the probe.

“The recent report of a new slick from the Deepwater Horizon’s riser raises questions about BP’s efforts to stem the long-term impacts of the 2010 oil spill,” they wrote in their letter.

BP spokesman Brett Clanton said the company has received the letter and will be responding directly to Markey and Waxman. He said the company will continue to work closely with the Coast Guard and other federal agencies to investigate potential sources of the sheen.

The letter follows a U.S. Coast Guard order on Friday informing well owner BP and rig owner Transocean that they may be responsible for costs related to identifying the source of the sheen and cleanup.

The Coast Guard said at the time that the examination would include satellite observations and mobilizing a remotely operated vehicle to scan the original Macondo well area as well as the wreckage, debris, and the riser on the sea floor.

The remotely operated vehicle was supposed to be in place by Sunday, with oversight from the Coast Guard. A spokesman, however, declined to provide an update Monday of what was going on subsea, and on Tuesday did not immediately respond to a request for comment.

Clanton said BP is in the process of implementing the joint plan approved by the Federal On-Scene Coordinator.

Confirmation that an oil sheen reported Sept. 16 in the Gulf of Mexico is consistent with oil from BP’s blown-out well comes at a critical time, just as talks intensify about resolving penalties and fines from the Deepwater Horizon disaster 2 ½ years ago.