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Allen: More accurate oil flow rate could come soon

By Ed Hornick, CNN
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BP 'not in charge'
STORY HIGHLIGHTS
  • Federal on-scene coordinator is the man in charge, Allen says
  • Allen says he'll take parish president's "list of complaints ... and act on them"
  • Can't force people to speak with media, Allen says, but BP cannot block access
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(CNN) -- The government's point man overseeing the Gulf oil disaster response told CNN Friday that a more accurate estimate over how much oil is flowing could come over the next few days.

"I would expect this estimate could evolve over the next four or five days, as we know more about what's going on with the pressure readings that we're going to be taking," Coast Guard Adm. Thad Allen told CNN's Wolf Blitzer. "We're going to put some actual sensors down there and get some pressure readings over the next couple of days."

Researchers recently doubled estimates of how much oil has been flowing from the ruptured well, saying Thursday that up to 40,000 barrels -- or 1.7 million gallons -- a day may have leaked for weeks.

Sensors, Allen said, will soon be placed at the pipe and will help in estimating the flow rate.

Who's in charge?

Frustration is running high for some officials in Louisiana. Plaquemines Parish President Bill Nungesser recently complained that it's unclear as to who exactly is in charge.

"I still don't know who's in charge. Is it BP? Is it the Coast Guard? When I get mad enough in a meeting, the Coast Guard in our office stands up and says, 'I can make that happen,'" Nungesser said. "When I throw a BP official out of my office, he comes back the next day and approves something."

Allen responded to those concerns, saying that the federal on-scene coordinator, by law, is in charge and has the final authority over the spill response.

Rear Adm. James Watson replaced Rear Adm. Mary Landry as the on-scene coordinator on June 1, when Landry returned to her job as commander of the 8th Coast Guard District on the opening day of the Atlantic hurricane season.

Allen said that he has met with parish presidents to address their specific concerns, and even placed Coast Guard officers with each president.

If Nungesser has a problem with the officer, Allen said he'd be glad to "sit down and the take the list of complaints that he has and act on them."

As for the Coast Guard's authority over BP, Allen said that if the government issues an administrative order to BP -- and they fail to comply -- there are civil and criminal penalties that could be directed at BP.

"Most of the things we do to BP are informal direction that's provided to them," he said. "If it has to get to the point where you issue a written order, we can do that."

Media access blocked?

Reporters, including CNN's Tom Foreman, have complained that they've been denied access to BP workers on the beach -- and even barred from shooting video at the scene.

Allen said that he has made it clear to BP that unless there is a safety or security issue, there should be "free and unfettered access by the media to wherever they want to go."

"We cannot force a person, an individual, to talk if they don't want to talk," he said. "But we can make the policy clear. And if there's a violation of the policy, I'm happy to deal with it."