Rep. Cao Questions Officials; Gives House Floor Speech on Spill

June 11, 2010

WASHINGTON, D.C. – Congressman Anh “Joseph” Cao (LA-02) continues to take a proactive stance on Capitol Hill in dealing with the BP oil spill. On Thursday, Cao spoke on the House floor and questioned witnesses at a subcommittee hearing on the long and short-term consequences.

David Westerholm, Director of the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration’s Office of Response and Restoration, told Cao the presence of underwater oil plumes from the leaking well is not necessarily due to the use of chemical dispersants.

Westerholm explained the presence of the plumes in response to Cao’s questioning during testimony before the House Subcommittee on Insular Affairs, Oceans and Wildlife Oversight.

Cao Observed, “… if oil is lighter than water, it should float up to the surface.” The Congressman then asked, “So why are we having the problem of subsurface oil plumes? Is that part of the dispersant that’s being used to somehow make this oil heavier than water?”

Westerholm responded, “If you didn’t treat it all , the majority of that oil comes up in about three hours. So even if you never dispersed the oil, small particles of oil break off and it’s our estimate that maybe somewhere between 30% and 50% of the oil that’s emanating from the bottom already disperses in the water column before it gets to the surface, whether you added any chemicals or not to it…”

Westerholm explained further that some of the small oil particles that disperse underwater “may be carried by some sea currents in a particular way,” forming plumes. The NOAA official said the agency is now in the process of mapping three-dimensional pictures to determine the depth of the plumes and how far they have drifted from the well head.

Later Thursday, in a speech on the House floor, Cao called the spill “the greatest environmental disaster in history.” He called on his House colleagues and the nation at large “to maintain our attention on a swift response and recovery and to hold the responsible parties accountable.”

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