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Still No Decision From BP on Top Kill, as Frustration Over Oil Spill Mounts

May 26, 2010 | Parker Waichman LLP

There is still no word this morning if BP will attempt to staunch the gushing Deepwater Horizon oil well with a procedure called a top kill. There is no guarantee a top kill – which has never been done at such ocean depths before – will work. There is even a chance the procedure could make the situation worse.

A top kill involves using heavy mud, drilling fluids and cement to plug up the well. Earlier this week, Doug Suttles, chief operating officer at BP PLC, conceded that the odds that the top kill would actually work stood at about six or seven on a scale of ten.

According to a FOX News report, BP had hoped to begin the top kill today. But engineers are still trying to determine how the extreme water pressure at that depth will affect the process.

Just before dawn, BP was still conducting testing the blowout preventer on top of the well to determine whether the company could successfully execute a top kill. The blowout preventer is meant to stop the uncontrolled flows of oil and natural gas like the one that brought down the Deepwater Horizon. In the case of Deepwater Horizon, the blowout preventer for some reason failed to shear off the pipe and seal the gushing well.

BP Chief Executive Officer Tony Hayward told CNN that a determination will be made after testing is complete.

“So far, it’s looking OK,” he said. “But we haven’t got all the data we need.”

If the top kill is attempted, the public will be able to view the procedure as it happens. BP said yesterday it will continue to broadcast a live video feed of its leaking undersea oil well while it undergoes the top kill.

Meanwhile, the oil slick continues to grown, endangering everything in its path. According to The Washington Post, oil has pushed up onto 70 miles of Louisiana’s shoreline and into shellfish-rich estuaries. Federal officials closed more fishing grounds Tuesday, bringing the total to more than 54,000 square miles, nearly a quarter of the federal waters in the gulf.

Frustration that the spill still has not been stopped is growing, and if the top kill doesn’t work, some want the federal government to take over.

“If the thing is not fixed today, the president doesn’t have a choice, and he better go in and completely take over, perhaps with the military in charge,” Sen. Bill Nelson, D-Florida, told CNN.

Last night, residents of Plaquemines Parish, Louisiana, expressed their frustration at a town hall meeting with officials from BP and the Coast Guard. Residents heard promises from BP officials that the company would “make it right,” but according to CNN, those assurances were not enough for many in attendance. Many pushed for a contract that would lay out a specific plan for compensation.

“Is it three months? Is it six months? What are you going to do to compensate the people that have lost their livelihood, maybe for many years? We want to know today,” said Plaquemines Parish President Billy Nungesser.

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