Lawmakers seek probe of sheen near spill site

Two Democratic lawmakers are asking the U.S. Coast Guard to investigate a sheen that appeared last week   on the Gulf of Mexico surface near the site of the BP well that blew out and caused the 2010 oil spill.

U.S. Reps. Henry Waxman of California and  Edward Markey of Massachusetts, both of whom led investigations of BP following the 2010 disaster off the  Louisiana coast, sent a letter to the Coast Guard asking it to find out more about the source of the sheen. They contended that BP has refused  to provide sufficient information.

BP had no immediate comment on the letter.

“The presence of this new sheen raises significant questions about whether there might be a continuing danger to the environment posed by oil trapped in the Deepwater Horizon wreckage and the Macondo well,” they wrote in their letter. The Deepwater Horizon drilling rig, which was working on the Macondo well, exploded and sank when  the well blew out. Eleven rig workers died.

The lawmakers have asked the Coast Guard for documents demonstrating how  much oil and other drilling fluids could be trapped in the wreckage of the rig, the riser pipe that connected it to the well or equipment BP used in its attempts to stop the oil flow. They also asked for a written response by Dec. 21 on whether BP could could capture or remove any remaining trapped oil.

The Coast Guard said BP reported the sheen Nov. 29 and that satellite imagery has verified it. The agency said BP will use  robotic cameras starting Sunday  to identify the source of the sheen.

An earlier sheen appeared at the site in September. Investigators determined it leaked from a containment vessel BP used in a failed attempt to capture the flowing oil in the weeks after the Macondo blew out on April 20, 2010.

Engineers successfully capped the well in July of 2010, and later killed it permanently by intercepting it with a relief well and plugging it with cement. BP and government investigators  have found no  indication that the well itself is leaking.