Jul 16 2010

Sen. Richard Shelby questions BP's use of dispersants in Gulf oil spill

Mobile Press Register

U.S. Sen. Richard Shelby, R-Tuscaloosa, speaking a Senate hearing today, raised questions about BP's use of chemical dispersants to fight the Gulf of Mexico oil gusher.

"Each day, questions are building about the use of dispersants to battle the oil spewing into the Gulf," Shelby said at a meeting of the Senate Appropriations Committee's science panel.

"The federal government continues to allow the use of huge quantities of dispersant in unprecedented amounts with no idea of what the immediate or long term effects are on the people in the Gulf or on the marine environment."

Shelby said oil companies have little experience using dispersants to fight large oil spills, and that the chemicals could be complicating the response effort.

"In theory, dispersants are supposed to break oil into smaller drops that can be digested by microbes. But, prior to last week's hurricane, we know that a substantial portion of the spilled oil was in large, continuous slicks.

"Further, without using the dispersant, much of the oil would have remained intact, floating on the surface. Would that have been the correct way to attack this spill? We don't know.

"Meanwhile, a large portion of the oil is evidently sinking, and could possibly be destroying marine life in deep waters or on the ocean floor. This all is all unchartered territory for us, and we have no research or answers."