Halliburton in spotlight in gulf spill probe
Investigators look at the company’s role in cementing the deepwater drill hole in the Gulf of Mexico. Transocean and BP also face questioning.Investigators delving into the causes of the massive gulf oil spill are examining the role of Houston-based Halliburton Co., the giant energy services company that was responsible for cementing the deep water drill hole, as well as the possible failure of equipment leased to British Petroleum.
Two members of Congress, Reps. Henry A. Waxman (D-Beverly Hills) and Bart Stupak (D-Mich.), called on Halliburton on Friday to provide all documents relating to "the possibility or risk of an explosion or blowout at the Deepwater Horizon rig and the status, adequacy, quality, monitoring, and inspection of the cementing work" by May 7.
'Environmental Terrorism' Probed in Italian Oil Spill
Hundreds of birds have already died as a result of the spill, which state prosecutors in Monza near Milan are investigating as "a true act of environmental terrorism."
Worry over food and crop contamination intensified today as the oil slick made its way along the Po River, which stretches 400 miles across northern Italy from the Alps to the Adriatic. The petroleum, reportedly forming a layer up to 6 inches thick on the water's surface, was passing through the province of Parma, a key alimentary region famous for its prosciutto and Parmesan cheese.
Italian officials said that whoever broke into the former Lombarda Petroli refinery near Milan at 4 a.m. Tuesday and opened the valves was familiar with the plant, and some speculated it could have been angry, recently laid-off worker.
Cinzia Secchi, a spokeswoman for Milan's provincial government, said the valves were opened "by someone who was familiar with the plant and knew how to open them."
The country's main farm lobby, Coldiretti, said Italy's crops are safe, but the environmental group Confagricultura said the water contamination could affect the land and future planting.
"We're monitoring the situation hour by hour, but we're very concerned about the possible damage to the land in the coming months and years," said Mario Vigo, the spokesman for Confagricultura.
Vigo said that local rice farmers, who produce the grain used in risotto dishes, will be forced to clean their irrigation systems to safeguard against the spill.
"We'll have to perform extraordinary maintenance to clear the water pipes of oil to save the rice production in Lombardy," Vigo said. "Fortunately, the rice production has not started yet. We will start to irrigate rice fields in 20 days."
The Po River valley, which encompasses more than 27,000 square miles, is home to more than 1,000 plant species, includes several wildlife refuges and produces a third of Italy's agricultural output. The Po and its tributaries are used by thousands of farmers to water their crops, but not usually during the winter.
The oil first spilled into the Lambro River, a tributary of the Po, and then flowed into the Po on Wednesday, despite efforts to stem the black tide with using floating barriers, absorbent pads and raised flood gates.
The World Wildlife Fund for Nature warned today that "the entire ecological and economic system is a risk."
Francesco Brunetti of the Arpa Lombardia Region Environment Agency explained the impact of the more than 600,000-gallon spill. "Think that a [tanker] truck has 30 cubic meters, or 30 tons. This is like 80 tanker [truck] loads spilled," he said.