Crews begin effort to plug leaking Gulf oil well

Aug 3rd, 2010 | By admin | Category: Featured

The task force said about 206 million gallons actually gushed out of the well, but a fleet of boats and other efforts were able to contain more than 33 million. The 172 million gallons is on the high end of recent estimates that anywhere from 92 million to 184 million gallons had gushed into the sea.

Judging by the latest estimate, BP could be fined up to $5.4 billion under the Clean Water Act, or as much as $21 billion if it is found to have committed gross negligence or willful misconduct.

The high-end fine would drop to around $17.6 billion if the government credits BP for the oil it has recovered, while the low-end fine would be around $4.5 billion.

Any fines would be on top of the compensation BP has agreed to pay to thousands of people harmed by the spill. Under pressure from the White House, the company set up a $20 billion escrow fund to pay all claims, including environmental damages and state and local response costs.

BP and federal officials have managed to contain large parts of the spill through skimmers, boom and chemical dispersants meant to break up the oil.

Federal regulators have come under fire from critics who say that BP was allowed to use excessive amounts of the dispersants, but government officials counter that they have helped dramatically cut the use of the chemicals since late May.

Michael Bromwich, who as director of the Bureau of Ocean Energy Management, Regulation and Enforcement is the nation’s top drilling regulator, said Tuesday that the Obama administration hopes to lift a freeze on deep-water drilling before it is scheduled to expire Nov. 30.

And as businesses along the coast continued to clamor for relief from losses caused by the spill, BP said it created a special team to reduce paperwork and speed up payments to “businesspeople who are suffering.”

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Contributing to this report were Associated Press writers Ramit Plushnick-Masti in Houston, Harry R. Weber on the Gulf of Mexico, and Matthew Daly in Washington.

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