100 Days In, Gulf Spill Leaves Ugly Questions Unanswered

by
staphni
The Gulf of Mexico oil disaster reached the 100-day mark Wednesday with hopes high that BP is finally on the verge of permanently sealing its ruptured Macondo well. But years of legal wrangles and probes lie ahead even after the well is killed, and myriad questions remain about the long-term effects of the massive oil spill on wildlife, the environment and the livelihoods of Gulf residents. BP aims to start the "static kill" on Sunday or Monday, pumping heavy drilling mud and cement down through the cap at the top of the well that has sealed it for the past two weeks. Five days later a relief well should intercept the damaged well, allowing engineers to check the success of the "static kill" and cement in the area between the drill pipe and the well bore. This so-called "bottom kill" should finally plug the reservoir once and for all, but it will not answer how the catastrophe was allowed to occur and who is responsible. While the last surface patches of toxic crude biodegrade rapidly in the warm waters of the Gulf, the long-term impact of what is thought to be the biggest accidental oil spill ever may not be realized for decades. As the focus shifts to the clean-up in the marshes and beaches of the Gulf coast, so it does to the US Justice Department investigation and state probes in Louisiana, Mississippi and Alabama. The Washington Post reported Wednesday that a team has been established to examine whether the notoriously close ties between BP and federal regulators contributed to the April 20 disaster. The "BP squad" will also probe rig operator Transocean and Halliburton, the oil services company which had finished cementing the well only 20 hours before the rig exploded, the Post reported. If BP needs a reminder of the long legal road ahead as it tries to rebuild its reputation, one will be provided on Thursday as lawyers at a session in Boise, Idaho set the stage for a potential trial of the century. The proceedings will examine whether complaints from around