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Top BP Exec Still Says Spill Flow Rate Doesn't Matter

BP still insists that the volume of oil flowing into the Gulf of Mexico doesn't affect it spill response, even though its own documents say otherwise. A company official, Doug Suttles, says a precise oil flow figure is irrelevant.

It's day 66 of BP's Deepwater Horizon disaster and even after estimates of the flow have soared, top executives at BP don't seem to have changed their tune.

In an interview published today, BP COO Doug Suttles told The Times-Picayune once again that flow rate is imprecise, "has never impacted the response," and "we didn't think it was relevant."

But as we've pointed out in earlier posts, BP's own Oil Spill Response document for the Gulf of Mexico said that determining the size and volume of a spill was "critical to initiating and sustaining an effective response," and that measuring the spill is "the priority issue."

The Times-Picayune also pointed out that in previous letters to the Coast Guard, Suttles himself suggested flow rate is important. Here's the Times-Pic

 In his response letter June 13, Suttles seemed to acknowledge that knowing the scope of the spill was in fact relevant. Whether BP's efforts would be sufficient "will also depend on the actual flow rate," Suttles wrote. "The systems outlined here are designed based on the current best independent assessment of flow from the FRTG (the group of scientists estimating the flow of oil). We will continue to adapt our plans as more is learned about the flow-rate from the well."

From the beginning, flow rate estimates have run the gamut, and the government and the company have not been clear about what they knew of spill size or when they knew it. The current estimate from the government's Flow Rate Technical Group is 35,000 to 60,000 barrels a day.

As we've pointed out, flow rate matters for several reasons--not the least of which is the per-barrel fines BP may face down the road.

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