Friday, January 04, 2013

Kulluk News Briefing 2: Video of the Q&A

This is the second part of the briefing - about 20 minutes of questions from the Anchorage Daily News, Alaska Dispatch, AP, New York Times, Fisherman's News, local Fox TV, Kodiak Daily Mirror, some I didn't quite catch, and even GQ.  The video of the first part - the presentations - is here.

Hearing people's names wasn't always easy, especially when it was from the phone connections.  This is a brief overview of the questions and responses.  Numbers are approximate times on the video.

0:15 Daniel Joel, AP:  What's your greatest concern?

Mehler:  Safety.  No mention whether there were concerns about oil leaking, or the rig breaking up, or if the rig will be ok for next summer.  Just worried about the safety of the workers.   Churchfield agreed.

1:06 Alan Bailey (Petroleum News?),   What work is involved, timeline, until you have a decision on how to salvage this vessel?
Churchfield:  Currently in the assessment stage.  Don't want to speculate on what they'll find.  We have no timeline.

2:00 Susanna Caldwell (I think) of the Alaska Dispatch asked about the sucking noise that was reported in the hull yesterday, but Sean Churchfield insisted it was a breathing noise, that he didn't want to go into any detail, but they were trying to determine if it was a breach or just natural venting of the tank.

2:40  Mark ??? on the phone:  Hard to hear over the phone.  Any time line about when it might be towed from the shoreline.
Churchfield summarized findings from yesterday.  Some wave damage.  Some hatches breached.  Generators damaged.  Salvage team on board assessing.  No timeline yet.

4:08 Margie Bauman, Fisherman's News:  First she asked if Churchfield and Mehler's remarks could be posted because they were so hard to hear.  Why won't Shell's investigation be made public?
Churchfield said they would collaborate completely with the Coast Guard.  Mehler said there's would of course be public.  Their statements will be put on line.

5:30 Channel 2:  When does the rig have to be out of there so it won't impact the 2013 drilling season?
Churchfield:  I'll defer that, my focus is on the response.  Call Shell's public affairs office.

6:10 Natalie Travis, KTVA Fox:  What were the main concerns of the local Communities?
Duane Dvorak:  Work for Kodiak Island Borough, connecting the Unified Command to the community and bringing their concerns back.  Local knowledge is our biggest contribtution.
Travis:  Has there been one piece of local knowledge that really helped?
Dvorak:  Direct contact with communities.  Native organizations.  Culturally significant geographical places that the responders need to be sensitive to.  How this could disrupt subsistence life style.

8:40 Steve Heimel, KSKA:  What about Refuge Rock?
Dvorak:  Discussed massacre of Old Harbor Natives when Russian colonization occurred.

9:59  Rich Mauer, Anchorage Daily News:  How far is the ship from Refuge Rock and could the fuel if it leaked reach the rock?
Steven Russell:  It's a ways off and should be protected.  The locations aren't too public.
[Later Ty, also from DEC, clarified to me that the location of sacred Native sites were kept from the public.  This was not related to the spill.]

10:40 Tim Bradner, Alaska Journal of Commerce - What is the hold thickness? I heard about 3 inches?
Travis:  Have to get to the naval architect to respond.  It is a well designed ship.

11:40 James Brooks Kodiak Daily Mirror?:How is this going to affect the CG resources that normally work with the fishing fleet?
Mehler:  Commitment and obligation to Alaskans.  We have other air assets, Shell has been chartering various air assets.  We have to maintain search and rescue resources.  Heavy lift, but not beyond what we can do.

13:00 ? McKenzie, GQ:  How many are preexisting Shell resources and how many are new and how many total?
Churchfield:  We had oil spill response assets in Seward, contracted other sources, we are providing what we had and contracting.

14:50 Henry Fountain, NY Times:  Could you clarify, did you have salvage teams both yesterday AND today?  And how does damaged electrical affect salvaging?
Churchfield:  Five salvors on board yesterday.  Six today, and bringing another six.  Damage to the electrical systems means the salvage teams have to find another way or bring in generators.   

15:35 Rich Mauer, ADN:  Related to that.  Does that mean pumps on board Kulluk now can't be used?  How do the hatches become unsealed?  Didn't the crew seal the hatches before they left?
Tommy Travis:  Issue about electrical, that's a salvage issue, talk to them.  I haven't interviewed the crew yet so I can't say.

16:59  I even asked a question.  You can tell I'm the closest to my mic.  Since they were being very circumspect about what they said, I was wondering how they decide what to say.  I thought that Duane Dvorak, the Kodiak Island Borough official who's just joined the Unified Command, had said something about deciding what to make public.  Actually, when I saw the video, it turned out to be the guy from DEC, Steven Russell.  The answer from Captain Mehler was they don't tell us stuff they can't validate.  No standard operating procedures that this will be released and this won't I assure you.  Is this accurate?  Is this the correct information?   I should have followed up about whether attorneys play any role in what they say.  Are there considerations about future lawsuits?

19:17 ? Argus Media:   Can you tell us the extent of the damage?  I can't tell if the vessel is seaworthy or not.
Churchfield:  Second day with salvage team. Still gathering data.  I do not have a completed assessment to pass back to you.

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