The Miami Herald

Day 65 updates on BP oil spill: Two workers die

FATALITIES

The Coast Guard reported two people involved in the clean-up effort died on Wednesday. This report changes the number of fatalities to 13.

OIL GUSHING

The Coast Guard says BP has been forced to remove a cap that was containing some of the oil gushing into the Gulf of Mexico.

Coast Guard Adm. Thad Allen says an underwater robot bumped into the venting system. That sent gas rising through vent that carries warm water down to prevent ice-like crystals from forming in the cap.

Allen says the cap has been removed and crews are checking to see if crystals have formed before putting it back on. In the meantime, a different system is still burning oil on the surface.

Before the problem with the containment cap, it had collected about 700,000 gallons of oil in the previous 24 hours. Another 438,000 gallons was burned.

The current worst-case estimate of what's spewing into the Gulf is about 2.5 million gallons a day.

BP-CLEANUP ORGANIZATION

BP PLC said Wednesday that managing director Bob Dudley will head the new Gulf Coast Restoration Organization, which is in charge of cleaning up the oil spill.

Dudley won't say if the oil giant will resume deepwater drilling in the Gulf, where it's the largest oil and gas producer.

Dudley says the company will "step back" from the issue while investigating the April 20 explosion. Dudley told the CBS "Early Show" he has completed taking over the disaster response and cleanup from CEO Tony Hayward. Hayward repeatedly sparked criticism from the Gulf to the U.S. Capitol for missteps and insensitive comments.

MORATORIUM

The White House has promised an immediate appeal of a federal judge's reversal of the administration's six-month moratorium on deepwater drilling in the Gulf of Mexico. And Interior Secretary Ken Salazar said he will issue a new order imposing a moratorium that eliminates any doubt it is needed and appropriate.

Judge Martin Feldman overturned the ban Tuesday, saying the government simply assumed that because one rig exploded, the others pose an imminent danger, too. The Interior Department had imposed the moratorium last month in the wake of the BP disaster, halting approval of any new permits for deepwater projects and suspending drilling on 33 exploratory wells.

MORATORIUM JUDGE

The Louisiana judge who struck down the Obama administration's six-month ban on deepwater oil drilling in the Gulf of Mexico has reported extensive investments in the oil and gas industry, according to financial disclosure reports. He's also a new member of a secret national security court.

U.S. District Judge Martin Feldman, a 1983 appointee of President Ronald Reagan, reported owning less than $15,000 in stock in 2008 in Transocean Ltd., the company that owned the sunken Deepwater Horizon drilling rig. His 2008 financial disclosure report — the most recent available — showed investments in more than a half-dozen other energy-related companies including Halliburton, which was also involved in the doomed Deepwater Horizon project. Feldman did not respond to requests for comment and to clarify whether he still holds some or all of these investments.

CAMERON

In London, British Prime Minister David Cameron's office said he would discuss BP and the oil spill in a meeting Saturday with President Barack Obama. Cameron's spokesman Steve Field told reporters Wednesday the men will discuss the beleaguered energy company during a meeting during the G-8 and G-20 summits in Canada.

WASHINGTON

The new director of a government agency that oversees offshore drilling is creating an internal investigations team to help him improve the agency's performance. Michael Bromwich, the new head of the Interior Department's Bureau of Ocean Energy Management, Regulation and Enforcement, said the investigative team will look into allegations of misconduct and respond quickly to emerging problems. In testimony prepared for a Senate subcommittee Wednesday, Bromwich said the new unit will report directly to him and will help ensure that oil and gas companies comply with laws and regulations, as well as investigate problems within the agency itself. A copy of his testimony was obtained by The Associated Press. Bromwich, who took over Monday at the newly created ocean energy bureau, established a similar investigative team at the Justice Department when he served as its inspector general.

CLAIMS

Is a strip club that caters to oil-rig workers entitled to a piece of the $20 billion fund for victims of the Gulf of Mexico disaster? How about a souvenir stand on a nearly empty beach? Or a far-off restaurant that normally serves Gulf seafood?

The farther the massive spill's effects spread, the harder it will get for President Barack Obama's new compensation czar to decide who deserves to be paid. Fishermen, rig workers and others left jobless by the oil spill seem certain to get their slices of the pie, sooner or later. It's the people and businesses a few degrees — and perhaps hundreds of miles — removed from the Gulf but still dependent on its bounty who will have a tougher time getting their claims past Kenneth Feinberg, the lawyer who handled payouts for families of Sept. 11 victims.

REAL ESTATE This was the year, Alicia Hollis and her fellow real estate agents thought. After a nasty batch of hurricanes and the bursting of the housing bubble, this was the year that condo sales along the Florida Panhandle's brilliant white beaches were going to rebound. Then came the oil — or more accurately, the mere threat of oil. Though most of the Gulf Coast remains free of tar balls, sheen and sludge from the oil spill in the Gulf of Mexico, owners and agents say the disaster has still stained a showcase piece of the real estate market.




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