As Hurricane Alex strengthens in the Gulf of Mexico, Democratic Rep. Ed Markey of Massachusetts, who chairs the House Energy and Environment subcommittee, fired off a letter to BP this morning, asking the company to tell him why its response plan for oil spills "makes no mention of hurricanes." [See a photo gallery of the oil spill.]
As Markey notes in his letter, the rough seas from the hurricane, which is currently situated off the northern Mexican coast, could delay oil containment efforts by a week, yet BP has not provided information about "its plans for handling tropical storms and hurricanes." [See where Markey's campaign cash comes from.]
For the past several weeks, Markey has been bashing BP for the inadequacy of its oil spill response plan, a plan shared almost verbatim by several other major oil companies. In his letter this morning, Markey expressed concern over the potential additional environmental damage resulting from the hurricane-oil spill combination. "How could a storm change the impact of oil in the open ocean and the coast?" he asks the company. [See who in Congress gets money from the oil industry.]
Markey is also asking BP for information about whether the hurricane could affect not only the collection of oil through the containment cap but also the drilling of the relief wells, which are being touted as a permanent solution to the leak. Barring delays, BP had originally estimated that the two relief wells would be done by August. But a storm could cause problems, he says. "As I understand it, each time a full evacuation of the drilling rigs occurs, 14 days of delay will result," he writes.