UPDATED: 6:13 PM: The New York Times is reporting that the top kill procedure has been halted by BP Thursday afternoon “when engineers saw that too much of the drilling fluid they were injecting into the well was escaping along with the leaking crude oil.” The company reportedly hopes to begin pumping again by midnight. UPDATED 4:30PM: We’re live-blogging Coast Guard Admiral Thad Allen’s press conference now on BP’s progress on the top kill procedure. See the “Cover It Live” box below. Live Streaming by Ustream.TV President Obama is expected to announce Thursday a 6-month moratorium on drilling for new deepwater oil wells, the Washington Post and other national media reported, and will cancel new drilling leases off the coast of Alaska and Virginia. The announcement is in response to the massive oil leak in the Gulf of Mexico, which scientists said Thursday was the worst in U.S. history. The five-week leak from a well at the bottom of the Gulf is already many times greater than the Exxon Valdez disaster off the coast of Alaska, according to the U.S. Geological Survey. We’ll be covering the latest developments on the oil leak and President Obama’s remarks here on The Rundown:
A government panel released new estimates of the amount of oil leaking from the Deepwater Horizon well on the ocean floor, saying at least 504,000 gallons per day have been flowing, and possibly much more, the AP reported.
Even using the most conservative estimate, that means the leak has grown to nearly 19 million gallons, surpassing the size of the 1989 Exxon Valdez disaster, which at about 11 million gallons had been the nation’s worst spill. Under the highest estimate, nearly 39 million gallons may have spilled.
We’ve updated our Gulf Leak Meter to reflect these new estimates, and we’ll continue to monitor the situation. For updates and live video (while available), follow our full coverage here.
Oil Leak Widget
The AP also reported that the director of the U.S. Mineral Management Service, Elizabeth Birnbaum, has resigned. The MMS oversees offshore oil drilling. An Interior Department report that alleged a corrupt culture at MMS, where government employees accepted inappropriate gifts from the oil industry. Mr. Obama will hold a 12:45 p.m. news conference at the White House about the oil leak. BP began a procedure Wednesday, called “top kill,” designed to plug the leaking well. Officials do not know yet if the procedure has completely stopped the oil leak, but some told the Los Angeles Times that the leak appears to have stopped at least on a temporary basis. President Obama continues to face criticism from environmental groups, lawmakers and Gulf residents for his administration’s response to the spill. A USA Today/Gallup poll found six in 10 adults say the government is doing a poor or very poor job with the oil leak.