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Oil spill in the gulf: Latest developments

Friday, July 2, 2010; A14

-- The House of Representatives passed the first major U.S. bill related to the Gulf of Mexico oil rig explosion, voting to allow families of workers who were killed or injured to be compensated far more generously than current law allows. They passed the bill on a voice vote; it now goes to the Senate.

-- The world's largest oil-skimming vessel is in the gulf. Officials hope the ship can scoop up to 21 million gallons of oil-fouled water a day. Dubbed the "A Whale," the Taiwanese-flagged former tanker spans the length of 3 1/2 football fields and is 10 stories high. It was extensively retrofitted to prepare it for the gulf.

-- The administrator of the $20 billion escrow fund established to pay BP claims says he is changing the system so businesses can get emergency, lump-sum payments. Kenneth Feinberg said the payments will be expedited and won't have a predetermined limit.

-- Based on the highest estimates by the government, the oil spill became the largest ever in the Gulf

of Mexico, hitting the 140.6 million-gallon mark and eclipsing the 140 million-gallon Ixtoc I spill off Mexico's coast from 1979 to 1980.

On the lower end of the government's estimates, at least 71.7 million gallons are in the gulf.

-- Although skimming operations and the laying of booms were halted across the gulf because of Hurricane Alex, vessels that collect and burn oil and gas at the explosion site were still operating. Efforts to drill relief wells that experts hope will stop the leak also continued.

In Florida, lumps of tar the size of dinner plates filled a large swath of beach east of Pensacola after rough waves tossed the mess onto shore. Streaks of rust-red oil could be seen in the waves off Pensacola Beach as cleanup crews worked in the rough weather to prepare the beach for the holiday weekend. In Grand Isle, La., heavy bands of rain pounded down, keeping cleanup crews off the water and tossing carefully laid booms around. But oil had stayed out of the passes.

-- Associated Press

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