Discussions continue on BP setting up escrow fund

BP and the Obama administration haven't reached agreement on setting up an escrow fund to pay cleanup costs and claims stemming from the Gulf of Mexico oil spill, according to several published reports.

The two sides continue to negotiate over issues including the size of the fund, who would administer it and whether BP shareholders would have to approve the transfer of money required for the account, according to Bloomberg, which cited people familiar with the talks.

President Barack Obama is to meet with BP chairman Carl-Henric Svanberg today at the White House to discuss dealing with the spill.

White House adviser David Axelrod called on June 13 for BP to establish an escrow account for claims tied to the spill, the biggest in U.S. history. Lawmakers led by Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid, a Nevada Democrat, have said BP should establish a $20 billion fund.

The administration wants a third party to make decisions about damage claims, Bloomberg reported, citing an administration official. How the administrator is selected is part of negotiations with London-based BP, and the president's aides consider the talks today crucial to resolving differences, Bloomberg reported.

Lawyer to head MMS revamp

President Barack Obama on Tuesday chose Michael R. Bromwich, a Washington lawyer, to revamp the troubled Minerals Management Service.

While Bromwich has limited experience with the oil and gas industry, he has built a reputation as a seasoned investigator who specializes in cleaning house.

As a young prosecutor, Bromwich helped put Lt. Col. Oliver North on trial during the Iran-contra scandal of the 1980s. Later, as inspector general at the Justice Department under President Bill Clinton, he uncovered mismanagement and shoddy practices in FBI crime laboratories.

More recently, Bromwich ran an independent investigation of the Houston Police Department's crime lab, accusing laboratory analysts of skewing their reports to fit police theories.

But Bromwich, a partner in the Washington and New York offices of Fried Frank, apparently does not see criminal activity around every corner. When Rahm Emanuel, Obama's chief of staff, enlisted Bill Clinton to see if Rep. Joe Sestak could be persuaded to drop out of a Senate race in exchange for an unpaid presidential appointment, Bromwich was nonplussed.

He said in an interview that it struck him as "marginally seedy, but not a crime."

Last month, Elizabeth Birnbaum stepped down as director of the Minerals Management Service, a job she had held since July.

USF prof: NOAA needs to share

WASHINGTON — Federal agencies do not have the resources to respond to the BP oil spill, and academic scientists are not being given adequate access to needed data, a University of South Florida professor told the House Subcommittee On Insular Affairs, Oceans And Wildlife Tuesday.

Robert Weisberg, a professor of physical oceanography, said he has given information to the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration, but he has not received any data from the agency, which makes it more difficult for his team to accurately forecast the trajectory of the oil spill.

Weisberg said he didn't think that the lack of access to data was purposeful. More likely, he said, it was because of an inability to coordinate on the part of NOAA and Unified Command.

"We have to recognize this is a major crisis … so maybe the last people who get attention are academics. My complaint is that there are more people working on this problem than Unified Command, and if that information were to flow more freely to us, in a easily accessible and useable manner,'' then the researchers' daily forecast of oil movement could be more accurate.

Lightning strikes siphon ship

A drill ship resumed siphoning off oil gushing from a blown-out well in the Gulf of Mexico on Tuesday after a bolt of lightning struck the vessel and ignited a fire that halted containment efforts, the company said.

BP PLC spokesman Bill Salvin told the Associated Press that the drill ship called the Discoverer Enterprise resumed processing oil Tuesday afternoon, about five hours after the fire caused an emergency shutdown. Engineers on the ship have been siphoning about 630,000 gallons of oil a day through a cap on top of the well.

He said there was no damage reported to the containment cap, and the Coast Guard approved BP restarting the system.

"If we believed it was damaged, we would not have restarted the operation," Salvin said.

Salvin was unsure how long the fire lasted but said it was apparently small and confined to the top of the ship's derrick.

1.47 million to 2.52 million

gallons a day of oil gushing from the ruptured well, according to a new estimate from a government panel of scientists. The latest numbers reflect an increase in the flow that scientists believe happened after undersea robots earlier this month cut off a kinked pipe near the sea floor. It is the fourth — and perhaps not last — time the federal government has had to increase its estimate of how much oil is gushing.

Information from AP, New York Times and Times Staff Writer Alex Holt was used in this report.

Discussions continue on BP setting up escrow fund 06/15/10 [Last modified: Wednesday, June 16, 2010 10:17am]

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