Feds Growing Weary of BP's Promises

Trouble on the Horizon: A timeline of the BP oil spill Gerald Herbert

It certainly seemed suspicious last week when BP officials in the Gulf chose July 27—almost without any explanation—as the day the company would finally cap the spewing well. Suspicious, because that’s also the day company executives plan report earnings from the second quarter, which by all objective measure has been disastrous. Finding a small bit of good news to tack on to dreadful losses (including the $20 billion government escrow fund) appears strangely strategic to boost investor confidence.

It could just be a coincidence, but Washington doesn’t care. Top government officials including national incident commander Adm. Thad Allen, are growing increasingly impatient with BP’s efforts to complete relief wells and stop the oil. In a letter dated yesterday, Allen, in his usual no-B.S. style, told BP’s chief managing director, Bob Dudley, that within 24 hours, he wanted an “updated and detailed timeline outlining upcoming decision points.” Those points include removing the temporary cap, requisite pressure testing and scheduled date of completion the two relief wells.

Allen’s apparent frustration comes after almost three months of back-and-forth over just who has been in charge, and who is more angry about the entire incident. As the White House scrambled to look busy and frustrated, only BP has had the technology to responding to the gusher a mile blow the surface. To members of Congress, the London-based company has also had the law almost infuriatingly on its side. Before executives agreed to the $20 billion economic fund, BP was legally only liable for $75 million in economic damages.

On-scene engineers promised that by mid-July, they would be able to capture 90 percent of the gushing oil. Rough estimates indicate only about 60 to 80 percent of the flow is currently being funneled to the surface. BP has also vowed that the two relief wells are scheduled for completion in mid-August. With both high-stakes deadlines approaching, tension in the gulf, like the oil, isn’t going anywhere.