The Coast Guard approved dozens of requests by BP to spread hundreds of thousands of gallons of surface oil dispersants in the Gulf of Mexico despite the Environmental Protection Agency’s directive on May 26 that they should be used only rarely, according to documents and correspondence analyzed by a Congressional subcommittee.
In some cases, the Coast Guard approved BP’s requests even though the company did not set an upper limit on the amount of dispersant it planned to use.
The dispersants contributed to “a toxic stew of chemicals, oil and gas, with impacts that are not well understood,” Representative Edward J. Markey of Massachusetts, the Democratic chairman of the House Subcommittee on Energy and Environment, wrote in a letter sent late Friday to Thad W. Allen, the retired Coast Guard admiral who is leading the federal response to the oil spill.
In a conference call on Saturday morning, Admiral Allen and Lisa P. Jackson, the E.P.A. administrator, said they had worked together closely and had come very near to achieving the agency’s goal of reducing dispersant amounts by 75 percent.
On May 26, the E.P.A. directed BP to stop using dispersants on the ocean surface, except in “rare cases when there may have to be an exemption,” and to limit use of the chemicals underwater.