Allen: Relief Well in Gulf Will Be Finished

Retired U.S. Coast Guard Admiral Thad Allen on "Face the Nation," Aug. 8, 2010.
Retired U.S. Coast Guard Admiral Thad Allen on "Face the Nation," Aug. 8, 2010. 6754283

Retired Coast Guard Adm. Thad Allen, the government's point man on the Gulf oil spill, said Sunday the authorities will require BP to finish pumping cement down its relief well, forming a final plug.

If not used for the so-called "bottom kill," the relief wells currently being drilled could offer a way for BP to pump oil again from the Macondo Prospect reservoir and sell it. BP officials earlier in the week refused to commit to pumping cement down the relief well.

John Dickerson, guest host of CBS' "Face the Nation," asked Allen about BP's plans: "Earlier in the week there was a little bit of confusion and a message from BP that maybe the relief well might not be necessary?"

"There was an inference early on that there might be an option," Allen said. "That is not the case. I've discussed this with [incoming BP CEO] Bob Dudley. The relief well will be finished."

Special Section: Disaster in the Gulf

BP has poured cement to complete a plug at the top of the well as part of the "static kill" operation, but they needed to wait at least a day for it to harden. Once it does, crews can finish injecting mud and cement from the bottom to permanently seal the hole, finishing the relief well to which Allen refers.

The company had been mulling alternate uses of the relief well, but federal officials have insisted it should be used for the bottom kill. Allen's comments Sunday seemed to close the book on the matter.

But BP officials have also pushed some buttons by suggesting that it might drill again in the same reservoir, citing "lots of oil."

Allen refused to say whether this was an appropriate option for BP.

"That's a policy issue between BP and the Department of the Interior. I'm focusing on the response," he said.

Allen also said BP hasn't been good at compensating Gulf Coast victims affected by the oil spill, and that the company will be held accountable.

"At the well head I think they've done very well," Allen said. "What they are not good at, and has not been part of their corporate competency or capacity in the past, is one on transactions with individual citizens. I think that's where the biggest gap of performance has been and where the most improvement needs to take place."

There have also been concerns that BP is pulling back on cleanup efforts now that oil is no longer spewing into the Gulf of Mexico. Residents have been worried that available help will gradually dwindle.

Allen said that wouldn't happen.

"We're going to keep cleaning it up. We've got a commitment to be there," he said. "BP is responsible. We're going to hold them accountable. I would say this has been the largest environmental response in the history of this nation. We'll continue until the clean-up is done."

Dickerson asked whether Allen can trust BP to do the right thing.

"Well, you know, I don't hardly have an interview where they don't raise the word 'trust' and BP In the same sentence. What I tell everybody is that this is more of a requirement to cooperate, collaborate. We all have to be working on the same mission. We have to achieve the effects we're trying to achieve for the American people. In that regard I think we've been effective."

"I think they've done a pretty good job of that," Allen said.

More Oil Spill Coverage:

BP May Re-Tap Reservoir, Citing "Lots of Oil"
BP Finishes Pumping Cement into Blown-Out Well
Reporting from the Coast Guard's "Decisive"
Report: Oil Rig Co. Had Issues at 3 More Wells
U.S. Says 75% of Oil Gone, but Skeptics Remain