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BP Cheered in California, While Gulf Oil Spill Spreads

Michelle Lodge
Thursday, 20 May 2010 | 7:31 PM ET

On the same day the Gulf of Mexico oil slick continued to spread—while lawmakers were feeding the public live video of the catastrophe—the oil giant BP responsible for one of the country’s worst environmental disasters was lauded as a hero.

Sea Otters presented by BP
CNBC
Sea Otters presented by BP

The reason: Years before the explosion and oil spill, BP donated $1 million to help underwrite a new sea otter exhibit at a California aquarium. The attraction opens to the public Friday; the news media got a preview today.

“Walk along a rocky coastline among barnacle-encrusted pilings, and enjoy ocean and inland vistas. Peer underwater and discover the busy world of sea otters as they swim and interact amongst kelp and fish,” beckons the website for the theBP Sea Otter Exhibit at the Aquarium of the Pacific in Long Beach, CA.

On the other coast, it’s unknown when idyllic sea life will recover from the tragedy.

Corpses of dolphins, turtles, birds and fish have washed up on the shores in the Gulf region since the oil spill has been unfolding over the past month. And no one can determine just what kind of effect a widely-used dispersant, which reduces oil to droplets, will cause to sea life.

BP Sponsors Sea Otter Exhibit
Matt Rezvani, BP America West Coast External Affairs, delivers remarks at the opening of a sea otter exhibit, sponsored by BP, at the Aquarium of the Pacific in Long Beach, Calif.

Many commercial fishermen and sport-fishing captains in the region have lost their livelihood.

Lawmakers, including Senator Bill Nelson (D-FL), frustrated at BP’s and the Administration’s response to the environmental and economic emergency, began streaming video provided by BP from 5,000 feet below sea level at the site of the damaged Deepwater Horizon rig. At least one website hosting the video crashed because servers could not keep up with Internet users' demand.

One of the wells blew out after an explosion killed 11 people on the oil rig in the Gulf. At least six million gallons of crude oil have spilled so far.

According to the AP, the oil company conceded on Thursday that more oil than it originally estimated is spewing into the Gulf; this week, heavy crude washed into Louisiana’s wetland for the first time. To deal with the leak, BP has used containment covers and booms and hired local fisherman to impart their knowledge of the Gulf waters and help with the clean-up.

BP spokesman Mark Proegler told the AP that a mile-long pipe inserted into a leaking pipe over the weekend is catching 210,000 gallons a day, but some of it is still escaping.

At the California aquarium, where visitors are invited to meet Maggie the sea otter, BP spokesman Matt Rezvani said the company appreciates its decade-long partnership with the institution. He concluded by talking about the Gulf tragedy.

“These objectives are to stop the flow of oil,” said Rezvani, “clean the oil on surface and minimize the impact to shorelines and the communities.”

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