BP failed Saturday to thread a mile-long tube into the broken pipe spewing oil into the Gulf of Mexico, but officials said efforts to break up the oil underwater seemed to be working.
The Environmental Protection Agency gave BP the go-ahead on Saturday to use dispersants, chemicals that break the oil into small droplets and keep it from rising to the surface. "The oil in the vicinity of the well is diminished from previous observations," BP chief operating officer Doug Suttles said.
Late Friday, technicians tried to stop the leak by guiding a six-inch-wide tube with a rubber stopper into the broken undersea pip, but had trouble connecting the tube to an oil tanker on the surface.
Suttles said they planned to try the technique again overnight. If that fails, the next step will be to place a steel-and-concrete dome called a "top hat" over the leak and attempt to siphon the oil to a ship.
Assurance sought on liability: The Obama administration has sought assurances from BP that it would not attempt to limit its liability to the $75 million prescribed by law. In a letter to BP's chief executive officer, Interior Secretary Ken Salazar and Homeland Security Secretary Janet Napolitano wrote, "We understand that BP will not in any way seek to rely on the potential $75 million statutory cap … and BP will not seek reimbursement from the American taxpayers, the United States government or the Oil Spill Liability Trust Fund for any amount." They added, "we request immediate public clarification of BP's true intentions."