Markey presses BP on size of Gulf oil gusher

Federal officials have estimated that BP’s damaged undersea well is spewing 5,000 barrels per day, and Markey notes in the letter that McKay reaffirmed that estimate at a committee hearing earlier this week.

But National Public Radio and other news outlets have reported that experts who analyzed undersea video of the oil leak, released by BP this week, believe the rate is vastly higher.

“At NPR's request, experts examined video that BP released Wednesday. Their findings suggest the BP spill is already far larger than the 1989 Exxon Valdez accident in Alaska, which spilled at least 250,000 barrels of oil,” NPR reported.

NPR’s story notes that Steven Wereley, an associate professor of mechanical engineering at Purdue University, estimates the damaged well is spewing roughly 70,000 barrels per day into the Gulf.

Markey’s letter asks McKay a series of questions about spill estimates and the efforts to stop the leak. BP has noted that accurately assessing the amount of oil coming into the Gulf from the leak 5,000 feet below the surface is impossible.

Coast Guard Commandant Admiral Thad Allen – who is heading the federal spill response – on Friday cautioned against drawing conclusions from the video BP released, and overall said the spill rate isn’t affecting the federal response. “We are attacking this as if it was a much larger spill anyway,” he told reporters.