HOUSTON, Texas -- Secretary of the Interior Ken Salazar continued his oversight activities with BP officials at their Command Center in Houston today, met with the manufacturers of the Blowout Preventer (BOP) device on the damaged wellhead and directed the head of the U.S. Geological Survey to support federal scientists and BP engineers working on ways to cap, control and contain the oil spill.
“We remain focused on ensuring that BP is doing all it can to meet its critical responsibilities for this major oil spill, and providing every resource available to get the job done” Salazar said. “I have asked our director of the U.S. Geological Survey, who has access to the knowledge and expertise of thousands of USGS scientists and technicians, to remain at the BP Command Center to support and coordinate the efforts of federal scientists and BP engineers who are working on solutions to this crisis.”
”Today I also wanted to visit the manufacturer of the BOP stack and learn what I can about its operation and the factors that may have caused it to malfunction,” added Salazar.
Salazar met with officials of Cameron Company, a firm that produces the BOP devices that cap deepwater wells and was briefed by company engineers on the mechanics and functions of the devices. The BOPs contain mechanisms designed to shut off the flow of oil and gas, either on command or automatically, when a wellhead is damaged or experiences a blowout. Federal and company engineers are seeking to determine why the BOP atop the Deepwater Horizon well failed to activate as designed.
Salazar directed Dr. Marcia McNutt, the director of the U.S. Geological Survey, to remain at BP Command Center to help coordinate the joint efforts of federal scientists and BP engineers who are working on several technological challenges and approaches to securing the damaged well head, capturing the leak and controlling the spill.
McNutt, a distinguished scientist and administrator, has served as chief scientist on a number of major oceanographic expeditions. She was the Griswold Professor of Geophysics at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology and served as Director of the Joint Program in Oceanography & Applied Ocean Science & Engineering. Prior to being confirmed as Director of the USGS, Dr. McNutt served 12 years as the President and CEO of the Monterey Bay Aquarium Research Institute (MBARI), an oceanographic research laboratory with a reputation for performing pioneering work in deep sea engineering using remotely operated vehicles.
In Houston yesterday, Secretary Salazar announced that, as a result of the Deepwater Horizon explosion and spill, beginning April 20 – the date of the explosion – no applications for drilling permits will go forward for any new offshore drilling activity until the Department of the Interior completes the safety review process that President Obama requested. In accordance with the President's request, the Department will deliver its report to the President by May 28, 2010. The only exceptions to the new rule regarding permit approvals are the two relief wells that are being drilled in response to the Deepwater Horizon disaster.
Before flying to Houston yesterday, Salazar visited the Federal Government's Unified Command operations center in Mobile, Alabama Thursday morning. The previous day he had visited national wildlife refuges on the Louisiana and Alabama coasts to assess on-the-ground efforts to protect sensitive areas; made an aerial survey of containment and cleanup efforts underway on Gulf waters; and examined the four-story cofferdam that will attempt to capture the largest leak from the damaged wellhead.
Among the major initiatives Salazar has already undertaken to combat the spill, the Secretary
Ordered immediate inspections of all deepwater operations in the Gulf of Mexico;
Issued a safety notice to all operators, reminding them of their responsibilities to follow MMS regulations and to conduct full and thorough tests of their equipment;
Established the Outer Continental Shelf Safety Oversight Board within the Department of the Interior with top officials to strengthen Outer Continental Shelf safety and improve overall management, regulation, and oversight of OCS operations;
Launched a joint investigation of the incident with the U.S. Coast Guard to determine what happened .
Information on the federal response effort is online at www.deepwaterhorizonresponse.com.
Images from the Secretary's Gulf Coast visit today will be available online at