Excerpts from yesterday’s White House press briefing with National Incident Commander Admiral Thad Allen:
Q Admiral, over the weekend Tony Hayward said that BP clearly was not prepared for a spill of this magnitude. The Coast Guard is the frontline agency in responding to oil spills. So what about the Coast Guard? Did you discount the possibility of a major blowout in the Gulf?
ADMIRAL ALLEN: No, we had always anticipated that could happen. In fact, in April of 2002, we actually ran an exercise on a Louisiana -- on an offshore oil port, which is only about 90 miles to the west of where this happened, and we envisioned a total loss of the wellhead for a number of days. It almost was a similar type of an event except it was in much shallower water.
In that national exercise, I was the national incident commander in the drill. We ran it out of the Superdome. And so we have known about these and planned for them. What’s made this one anomalous is the amount of area this oil is covering and the breadth from central Louisiana clear over to, at this point, Port St. Joe, potentially Florida. I don’t think any plan ever envisioned it would get out that far and disaggregate and have the requirement to have so many resources spread across such a wide area. Because you kind of think of an oil slick coming in en masse, and you think about the Exxon Valdez. That is what’s been different, and that, if anything, is taxing our resources. It’s the breadth and the complexity of the disaggregation of the oil, which I don't think was accounted for and anticipated in any plans.
Q Any reason why that wasn’t anticipated? Just never happened before? No engineers could have envisioned –
ADMIRAL ALLEN: Well, when you usually do a response plan, you come up with a worst-case discharge or some amount that you plan against, and then you identify the resources that could be brought to the scene in terms of skimming, booming sensitive areas that are nearby, in-situ burning and so forth. And those were all identified. But if you have to replicate that across the entire Gulf, you start multiplying the resource requirements. And that's something we probably need to look at as the commission takes a look at the response.
I don't think it was any kind of lack of duty or anything like that. I think it was a peculiar set of circumstances that, frankly, weren’t anticipated and I think are going to have to be anticipated in the future.
PRESS SECRETARY ROBERT GIBBS: And look, we’ve said this before. I think the last time you saw a spill of this magnitude in the Gulf was off the coast of Mexico in 1979. And the President has asked the commission and the Department of Interior, as it looks through the regulatory framework of this, to ensure that we’re taking all precautions and all possible scenarios into account as, I think it’s probably safe to say, if something doesn’t happen since 1979, you begin to take your eye off of that then.
Gulf incident commander: "We had always anticipated" this could happen (6/8)
June 8, 2010