Adm. Allen Steps Down from BP Oil Spill Response, Joins RAND

HOUSTON (Dow Jones Newswires), Oct. 2, 2010

Retired U.S. Coast Guard Admiral Thad Allen, who led the U.S. effort to kill BP's blown-out well in the Gulf of Mexico, is stepping down from the role -- a sign that the response effort to the catastrophic Deepwater Horizon oil spill has entered a new stage.

Allen was appointed National Incident Commander by the Obama administration in May, when it became clear that the deepwater gusher had become a major environmental disaster. He said in a statement Friday that the "National Incident Command is disestablished," and that oversight of the BP oil spill response now falls to Rear Admiral Paul Zukunft, who has been directing clean-up efforts. "Our commitment to this response and the people of the Gulf of Mexico remains," Allen said.

Allen will join the RAND Corp. as a senior fellow starting Monday, the research organization said Friday. He was scheduled to join RAND in May 2010, after retiring from the Coast Guard, but the explosion on April 20 of the Deepwater Horizon rig, which unleashed the worst offshore oil spill in history, delayed the move.

The departure of Allen, a former Coast Guard commandant who also led Hurricane Katrina relief efforts, comes nearly two weeks after the deepwater well that leaked more than four million barrels of crude into the Gulf of Mexico was officially declared dead, and draws the curtain on the frenzied federal attempt to put a permanent stop to the spill. The spill was brought under control in mid-July, when BP placed a cap atop the gushing well, a seal that was further reinforced in August, when the company created a cement plug at the top.

No recoverable oil has been found in the surface since August, but Allen insisted that BP finish a relief well that was designed to intersect the Deepwater Horizon well and pump cement from the bottom as a way to guarantee that the gusher was in fact killed. That mission was accomplished Sept. 19.

Homeland Security Secretary Janet Napolitano in a statement commended Allen's "strong leadership" throughout the BP oil spill response. "Admiral Allen drew on his experience with major response efforts as well as his long career in the Coast Guard to help direct the aggressive efforts to stop the flow of oil," she said.

At RAND, Allen will do research for the Homeland Security and Defense Center, which studies how to protect communities and key infrastructure from natural catastrophes and terrorist attacks.

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