GUEST COLUMN: Well cap stopped leak, now what?

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By The Staff

Though they weren’t celebrating just yet, officials at BP announced Thursday a well cap had temporarily stopped the thousands of gallons of oil from leaking into the ocean.

As of Friday afternoon it was still holding and officials announced the pressure was steadily rising. A higher pressure means more oil is staying inside the well and less is leaking out. Underwater views show the temporary success as no oil can be seen leaking. But officials aren’t ready to pop the cork on the champagne just yet and for good reason.

BP has tried to stop the gushing of its Deepwater Horizon rig since it exploded three months ago. All previous efforts were unsuccessful and oil from the rig continued to leak. That oil began to surface along the Gulf Coast and Florida beaches a few weeks ago. Tar balls fill some beaches as fishing industries, tourism and ocean animals continue dealing with the harm inflicted because of the spill. There’s no way to tell how much harm the oil will cause. The first step is to stop the leak.

Fingers are now crossed that BP may begin to see a light at the end of that particular tunnel. While not a definite fix, it’s certainly some of the best news BP has been able to give since the mess began.

While the cap is in place, work restarted Friday on “the drilling of the first of two relief wells, seen as a more permanent way to plug and seal the breached well,” according to a CNN report.

The oil well cap wasn’t expected to last more than 48 hours. After that, “Valves are expected to open … to resume siphoning oil to two ships on the surface... Two more ships are due to join them in coming weeks, bringing containment capacity to 80,000 barrels (about 3.4 million gallons) of oil a day, more than high-end estimates of how much oil had been leaking.”

Though not decided yet, some are predicting BP will continue sending the oil to containment ships until the relief wells are finished. The relief wells are expected to be completed in August. The second one serves as a backup to the first.

Most of the country’s focus has naturally been to stop the oil in the Gulf. But the explosion brings up questions about offshore drilling and the safety precautions that need to be established if offshore drilling continues in this country.

While I believe it’s safe to say offshore drilling will continue, I’m with the majority who think more emergency procedures need to be in place to stop future accidents from reaching such epic conditions again.

And an accident is how I would best describe what happened. You can bet BP did not want its oil rig to explode and begin dumping millions of gallons of oil into the Gulf. You can also bet the company did what it could and continues to do so to stop the leak. Better communication and more thoughtful public relations messages could have also been in place, but since the start I think BP has tried everything it had at its disposal to stop the leak. There is no reason that it wouldn’t.

Now protests against BP gas stations are being held throughout the country and even the government has gotten into the bullying mood. That serves no purpose but to deflect attention away from where it needs to be. How the federal government can require a private company to set up a “trust fund” of sorts for those hurt by the spill is, in my opinion, beyond the scope of the White House. That’s what the courts are for and that’s where the issue should have remained if it had come to that.

While BP has focused its efforts on stopping the leak, most of us will say a prayer that it comes up with a solution.

After the leak is contained, the cleanup will begin. It will be only then we will know the true damage of what has happened. I just hope it is something from which we can recover.

Lisa Tolliver is the editor of the Kentucky Standard in Bardstown.