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Oil spill: Two weeks in

By Ed O'Keefe

Water flows Monday on Chandeleur Island, La. (AP)

It's Day 14 of federal efforts to stave off a massive oil spill and environmental disaster (efforts that began on Day One... or maybe not.)

Here's a rundown of where things stand from a federal perspective:

More than 2,000 volunteers are trained to assist with the response efforts (read more about that here.)

There are now nine staging areas to assist the Gulf Coast states and protect the shoreline in Biloxi and Pascagoula, Miss.; Pensacola, Fla.; Dauphin Island, Ala.; and Port Sulphur, Shell Beach, Slidell, Port Fourchon and Venice, La.

President Obama wants Commerce Secretary Gary Locke, Interior Secretary Ken Salazar, Homeland Security Secretary Janet Napolitano and NOAA Administrator Jane Lubchenco back in the Gulf Coast region this week to keep tabs on the ongoing federal response. At least some of them will also meet with business leaders to discuss the potential economic impact.

Salazar, Napolitano and EPA Administrator Lisa Jackson met Monday with BP company officials to discuss the cleanup and the company's plans to pay for the response efforts.

Officials will also head to Capitol Hill and brief lawmakers at 4:30 p.m. about the ongoing cleanup, aides said.

At least three congressional committees plan to investigate the spill and the public-private response.

Democratic aides said the House Oversight and Government Reform Committee will investigate the Minerals Management Service and what it did before, during and after the blast. The panel's ranking Republican, Darrell Issa (Calif.), also requested information from the Interior Department on Monday.

A House Energy and Commerce subcommittee will also hold a hearing next Wednesday about the blast and cleanup. Members hope to hear from top officials with BP, Transocean -- owner of the Deepwater Horizon oil rig -- and Halliburton.

Senate Commerce Committee Chairman Jay Rockefeller (D-W.Va.) said he also plans to hold hearings, since his panel oversees the Coast Guard and the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration.

Another potential line of inquiry: Why the feds had only one fire boom at the ready in the Gulf Coast region.

Commandant Thad Allen, designated the national incident commander on Saturday, said the response to the spill was much better than the Bush administration’s response to Hurricane Katrina.

Coast Guard Cmdr. Jim Elliott, the deputy incident commander at the unified command post in Mobile, Ala., described for the Eye the federal response:

"It's amazing when you bring in all these different agencies with all this expertise from NOAA doing the trajectory analysis of where the oil is going to go," Elliott said. "You have U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service working on the resources at risk. We have National Park Service involved. OSHA, the state agencies, the local boards of health, all the way down to the community volunteers. It's a massive undertaking."

Agency officials continue to track air quality -- you can follow it here.

Assistant Secretary of Labor for Occupational Safety and Health David Michaels, who oversees the Occupational Safety and Health Administration, visited Louisiana with agency officials to ensure that cleanup workers and volunteers are receiving the necessary protections. The agency continues to consult with other agencies and BP to ensure that workers are trained properly and have the appropriate protective equipment.

The agency continues to test techniques to break up oil before it reaches the surface. A remote underwater vehicle is using a dispersant with "encouraging results so far," according to the White House.

The agency's most recent oil trajectory path anticipates most of the slick stays out to sea with minimal onshore impact.

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By Ed O'Keefe  | May 4, 2010; 11:00 AM ET
Categories:  Administration, Agencies and Departments  
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