By DANIEL GILBERT and ANA CAMPOY
HOUSTON -- As US officials and BP negotiate to resolve the
company's liability for the Deepwater Horizon spill, some local
and state officials are citing a newly discovered oil slick as
evidence that the full impact of the 2010 accident remains
Federal officials said late Wednesday that the oil slick,
about 50 miles off the Louisiana coast near where the Deepwater
Horizon drilling rig exploded, matches crude that gushed from
the well, which was being drilled by BP.
The source of the thin slick, known as a sheen, isn't clear,
and officials said it could be oil that had been trapped in the
wreckage of the rig, which was owned by Transocean.
BP and the US Justice Department are currently in advanced
talks to settle the company's civil and criminal liabilities
arising from the disaster, according to people familiar with
The rig exploded on April 20, 2010, killing 11 workers and
leaking 4.9 million bbl of oil into the Gulf of Mexico.
Talk of a new slick was making residents nervous in Orange
Beach, Ala., one of the Gulf Coast beach towns sullied by the
2010 spill, Mayor Tony Kennon said Thursday. Mr. Kennon called
on the US Coast Guard to investigate the source of the sheen,
so people in town would know what to expect.
"Is it a leak or is it a gusher?" he asked, adding, "We're
hoping it's nothing, but in the back of your mind, you wonder,
The Alabama governor's office also expressed concern over
the sheen. "We expect BP to clean up any of their oil that is
found in Alabama waters or on the beaches," a spokeswoman for
Republican Gov. Robert Bentley said.
Sen. Mary Landrieu, a Louisiana Democrat, wrote to the Coast
Guard in August to express concerns that federal officials had
stopped actively monitoring parts of the coast for lingering
effects from the spill. The new sheen heightens those concerns,
a Landrieu spokeswoman said Thursday.
"One can only hope that the nightmare well has not come back
to haunt the people of the Gulf," said Rep. Ed Markey (D.,
Mass.,), the top Democrat on the House Natural Resources
Committee, in a statement.
He called for reinstalling an underwater camera at the well,
which was plugged in July 2010, and said additional effects
from the spill should be considered in assessing monetary
BP, in an internal presentation reviewed by The Wall
Street Journal, indicated that the slick likely came from
a mixture of oil and a mud used in drilling that was trapped
inside a long pipe connecting the Deepwater Horizon rig to the
In a statement, BP defended the integrity of its sealed well
and suggested that the slick comes from residual oil contained
in debris from the rig. The company pointed to a federal
inspection a year ago, after similar sheens surfaced in the
Gulf, which found that the well wasn't leaking.
"We have seen no evidence from this latest sheen that leads us
to believe otherwise," the company said.
A spokesman for Transocean pointed to a federal-court ruling
earlier this year that the drilling rig contractor wasn't
responsible for an oil spill that originated beneath the
"We will rely on the lab analysis as to the origin of the
oil, and defer to the recent ruling of the federal court on the
question of responsibility," said Brian Kennedy, the Transocean
The oil sheen was reported by BP on Sept. 16, and assessed
by the Coast Guard and the National Oceanic and Atmospheric
Officials took samples that correlate to oil collected from the
BP well. The sheen has stretched for as long as four miles, but
has varied in size with sea conditions.
The Wall Street Journal (via
Dow Jones Newswires)