New Orleans, La. – Retired Coast Guard Admiral Thad Allen is telling BP that it has to respond faster when seepage is detected and be ready to report findings within four hours to the government. The new order comes after BP announced over the weekend that it wants to keep the containment cap closed until the well is permanently plugged next month. Allen, who is the government's point man in the response, says the cap may need to be reopened to relieve pressure on the well. That option would mean oil spilling into the water for up to three days while hoses are hooked up to containment vessels. Pressure readings from the cap aren't high enough to show whether there's a leak somewhere along the well, which extends 13,000 feet into the sea floor. Bubbles have been detected near the well. BP says it could be a normal occurrence seen in drilling, but Allen wants BP prepared to immediately open choke valves on the cap if oil is confirmed.
For NPR News, I'm Eileen Fleming in New Orleans.