Coast Guard Logs Show Administration Knew Extent of Oil Spill within 24 Hours

Rep. Darrell Issa (R-Calif.), top Republican on the House Committee on Oversight and Government Reform released documents Thursday night showing the Coast Guard recorded on April 21 — less than 24 hours after the Deepwater Horizon explosion — the magnitude of the oil leak disaster in the Gulf of Mexico. 

“Potential environmental threat is 700,000 gallons of diesel on board the Deepwater Horizon and estimated potential of 8,000 barrels per day of crude oil, if the well were to completely blowout,” the Coast Guard reported in a log of events from the immediate aftermath of the April 20 explosion — shedding new information on the first days of the disaster.

“These documents raise new questions about whether the White House was slow to respond to an incident that was quickly recognized by the Coast Guard as a potentially catastrophic threat to the environment,” Issa said upon release of the documents.  “It appears as if this administration would rather tell a half-truth if the full-truth doesn’t fit the story they want to tell.”

Logs further indicate the Coast Guard recorded the immediate failure of the blowout preventer.

"Less than 48 hours after the explosion multiple attempts to activate the blowout preventer had already failed and the Coast Guard knew 8,000 barrels of crude oil spilling into Gulf waters each day was a real possibility," Issa added.  "Americans have a right to be outraged by this spill, by top government officials caught off-guard, and by the facts the White House omitted in explaining what it knew and when it knew it."

Highlights from the logs:

•    New Questions about Erroneous Oil Leak Estimates — On April 21 the Coast Guard evaluated the “potential environmental threat” and concluded that in addition to 700,000 gallons of diesel from the vessel there was an “estimated potential of 8000 barrels per day of crude oil, if the well were to completely blowout.”  This estimate, made one day after the explosion, was larger than both the initial 1000 barrels per day first estimate of oil lost and the first upward revision to 5000 barrels of oil leaking per day.

•    Early Failed Attempts to Secure the Well — While it has been reported that the first efforts to use remote operated vehicles (ROV) to activate the well’s blowout preventer occurred on April 25, Coast Guard logs indicate that efforts actually began on April 21. On April 22 logs state, “ROV attempts to shut-in the well were unsuccessful; a third attempt is being conducted.”

•    The White House and “No Apparent Leak” — The White House Oil Spill Timeline states that on April 23 there was “No Apparent Leak.”  Coast Guard documents, however, reveal the full context of the claim.  Coast Guard logs from April 23 state:  “Earlier reports that the ROV had confirmed that that the blowout preventer valve was closed was incorrect.  ROV has only been able to confirm there is no visible flow from the well.”  Why wasn’t the oil visually evident?  Coast Guard logs from April 22 point to the massive fire:  “The majority of the oil continues to be mitigated by the fire … use of ROV to shut-in the well has been unsuccessful after several attempts.”

The Center for Public Integrity has constructed a complete timeline here.