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The Response To The Oil Spill So Far

Press Secretary Robert Gibbs discusses the coordinated response to the BP Oil Spill. [Uppdated.]

Ed. Note: This post was updated at 3:45PM.

The response to the BP Oil Spill began as an emergency search and rescue mission by the U.S. Coast Guard and other partners on April 20. Concurrently, command center operations were stood up immediately in the Gulf Coast to begin also addressing the environmental impact of the incident.

The morning after the explosion, Secretary Salazar deployed Deputy Secretary Hayes down to the gulf to assist with coordination and response to the incident.

The Administration immediately began holding regular calls with BP leadership and numerous senior-level meetings have been held between the administration and BP to discuss BP’s response effort and federal oversight and support.

The National Response Team (NRT), an organization of 16 federal departments and agencies responsible for coordinating emergency preparedness and response to oil and hazardous substance pollution incidents was quickly activated and a coordinated group of federal partners—including the United States Coast Guard, Departments of Homeland Security, Commerce, Interior and the Environmental Protection Agency—immediately began directing and overseeing BP’s response.

The President immediately began actively monitoring the incident and consulting on the response. The President has been in contact with all the governors of the states that may be affected and ordered that the administration use every single available resource at our disposal.

The Department of Defense is fully integrated into the DHS-led team and fully supportive of all response activities. Navy assets have been involved since day #1, and DOD continues to offer and prepare to offer what is needed as the situation develops.

The Secretary of Defense has approved a request for two C-130 aircraft with Modular Aerial Spray Systems (MASS), which are currently en route to the affected area. The Coast Guard has requested assistance from the Department of Defense for these aircraft.

These aircraft dispense the same dispersant chemical being used by BP and the federal responders. Each system is capable of covering up to 250 acres per flight with three flights per aircraft per day.

Additionally, in direct support of the Coast Guard under an existing pollution clean-up and salvage operations agreement, the Navy is providing a variety of oil pollution control equipment. The Navy has sent thousands of feet of inflatable oil boom with mooring equipment, several skimming systems, related support gear, and personnel to support oil spill response efforts. Naval Air Station Pensacola is serving as a staging facility for Coast Guard contractor-provided equipment.

Early on, the President directed responding agencies to not only devote every resource to respond to this incident but to also determine its cause. Earlier this week, Secretary of Homeland Security Janet Napolitano and Secretary of the Interior Ken Salazar laid out the next steps for the investigation.

The President has also dispatched Secretary Napolitano, Secretary Salazar, EPA Administrator Jackson, Assistant to the President for Energy and Climate Change Policy Carol Browner and NOAA Administrator Jane Lubchenco to the Gulf Coast to ensure all is being done to respond to this oil spill.

DHS Secretary Napolitano announced that this incident is of national significance, the Department of Interior has announced that they will be sending SWAT teams to the Gulf to inspect all platforms and rigs and the EPA is conducting air monitoring activities to gather information on the impact of the controlled burn on air quality.

By the Numbers To Date:

  • Personnel were quickly deployed and 1,900 have been responding to protect the shoreline and wildlife—hundreds more than yesterday.
  • Approximately 75 response vessels have been responding on site, including skimmers, tugs, barges, and recovery vessels to assist in containment and cleanup efforts—in addition to dozens of aircraft, remotely operated vehicles, and multiple mobile offshore drilling units.
  • More than 217,000 feet of boom (barrier) have been deployed to contain the spill—an increase of more than 40,000 feet since yesterday. An additional 305,000 feet is available.
  • 20,313 barrels (853,146 gallons) of an oil-water mix have been recovered—an increase of 90,000 gallons since yesterday.
  • 139,459 gallons of dispersant have been deployed—an increase of more than 40,000 gallons since yesterday. An additional 51,000 gallons are available.
  • Six staging areas (Biloxi, Miss., Pensacola, Fla. Venice, La., Pascagoula, Miss. and Theodore, Ala., and Fourchon, La.) were set up to protect sensitive shorelines—an increase of 1 since yesterday.

Robert Gibbs is White House Press Secretary