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June 9, 2010 at 10:00 PM
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Allen, BP meet on claims process

WASHINGTON, June 9 (UPI) -- Coast Guard Adm. Thad Allen met with BP officials Wednesday and called for "more detail and openness from BP" in the Gulf of Mexico oil spill.

Allen, national incident commander, said before meeting with officials of the British energy company officials he had written to BP President and Chief Executive Officer Tony Hayward requesting the meeting with claims processors because of concerns about the time it was taking to process loss claims and get money to claimants.

The meeting was intended to ensure "every legitimate claim is honored and paid in an efficient manner," the Deepwater Horizon Incident Joint Information Center said in a news release.

"BP, as a responsible party, is accountable for making the communities, individuals and business impacted by this spill whole again," Allen said. "We need more detail and openness from BP to fulfill our oversight responsibilities to the American people and ensure that BP is meeting its commitment to restore the Gulf Coast."

The session was the first in a series of meetings federal officials will conduct "to ensure that BP's claims process is transparent, prompt and responsive to the unique needs of the impacted communities citizens and businesses," the statement said.

"They own the data. We need the data," Allen said earlier Wednesday at an oil spill briefing. "We asked for it."

He said he sent another letter to BP asking the company to build in redundancy in both short- and long-term containment plans.

"We don't want anything to delay the recovery process," Allen said.

He said crews were working to suppress fumes and organic compounds rising from the gulf waters that can adversely affect cleanup crews' health. Hot weather was exacerbating the situation, he said.

Crews are capturing about 630,000 gallons of oil a day since a containment cap was installed last week.

Allen said he wanted to nail down better information about flow production to get a better idea about the amount of oil being captured. Allen previously said he has asked the appropriate people to revisit two models that have indicated ranges between 12,000 and 19,000 barrels a day and 12,000 to 25,000 barrels a day were being contained.

"I'm not going to declare victory on anything until I have absolute numbers," Allen said. "Show me the numbers."

He said he wasn't aware reports indicated oil may be percolating elsewhere on the gulf floor.

One of the concerns officials had about the failed "top kill" method, which included pumping thick fluid into the pipe, was that it would create pressure in the well bore.

"We didn't know the condition of the bore and whether it's a risk," Allen said, explaining that a crack could mean oil could leach into the strata, creating a leak from the sea floor.

Salazar explains deep water rig moratorium

WASHINGTON, June 9 (UPI) -- The moratorium on new deep water drilling called after the Gulf of Mexico oil spill is temporary, U.S. Interior Secretary Ken Salazar told lawmakers Wednesday.

Salazar told the Senate Energy and Natural Resources Committee the Obama administration could end a six-month moratorium on exploratory wells in deep waters sooner if a presidential commission finishes its investigation on the oil spill ahead of schedule, The Wall Street Journal reported.

If the commission doesn't finish its investigation in six months, he said he couldn't say whether the moratorium would be extended.

"(It's) a situation that we will have to assess as we move forward and we'll adjust accordingly," Salazar said.

"We want to see much more than a pause," Sen. Bob Menendez, D-N.J., said.

The moratorium has caused concern among gulf states leaders and oil-state lawmakers because deep water drilling accounts for about a quarter of all U.S. oil production and the bulk of oil production in the Gulf of Mexico, the Journal said.

The secretary told the panel production from existing deep water wells continues "with very little interruption" because of oil rising from the BP pipe on the gulf floor. On April 20, the rig exploded, killing 11 workers, and sank two days later. It has been spewing oil into the gulf since.

The Senate's Energy and National Resources Committee meeting was one of several hearings on Capitol Hill related to the oil spill.

Diane Wilson, a protester identifying herself to reporters as a fisherwoman, disrupted the Salazar hearing when she poured a jar of liquid resembling oil on herself, The Hill reported.

Capitol Hill police grabbed Wilson and escorted her from the hearing room. A Senate aide who witnessed the incident said staff had difficulty cleaning up the black mess.

If the moratorium "lasts very much longer than a few months, it could potentially wreak economic havoc on this region that exceeds the havoc wreaked by the rig itself," Sen. Mary Landrieu, D-La., said.

Salazar said the importance of employment in the region "has been very much on the mind of the president and my mind as well."

He also told Landrieu the Obama administration would force BP, based in Britain, to pay salaries of oil services workers who lose their jobs because of the spill.

Poll: Fewer favor drilling after spill

WASHINGTON, June 9 (UPI) -- In the wake of the BP disaster, only 25 percent of Americans back more offshore oil drilling, and most blame federal regulators for the spill, a poll indicates.

In an attempt to meet energy needs, the White House lifted the moratorium on drilling in U.S. coastal waters before the spill, but now most Americans say they want fewer wells (31 percent) or the amount of wells kept at the current level (41 percent), a new Washington Post-ABC News poll released Wednesday indicated.

During a Senate Environment and Natural Resources Committee hearing, panel Chairman Jeff Bingaman, D-N.M., said the Gulf of Mexico oil spill underscored a failure on the part of BP and the federal government.

"It's clear that prior to the explosion at the Deepwater Horizon rig neither the companies involved nor the government adequately appreciated or prepared for the risks involved in a deep water drilling operation of this type," Bingaman said.

"The results of that failure to properly assess and prepare for risks have been disastrous. Lives have been lost. The livelihood and way of life of many Gulf residents have been interrupted and in some cases destroyed. The environmental damage has been immense."

The poll indicated support for drilling in general has slipped from 64 percent last August to 52 percent and about 49 percent say they see the spill in the Gulf as a broader problem with drilling.

The Post-ABC poll was conducted June 3-6, among a random national sample of 1,004 adults. Interviews were conducted on conventional and cellular telephone, and the results from the full poll have a margin of sampling error of plus or minus 3 percentage points.

Obama, Abbas meet in Oval Office

WASHINGTON, June 9 (UPI) -- U.S. President Barack Obama, after meeting with Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas in the Oval Office, called Israel's Gaza blockade "unsustainable."

Obama said the deadly confrontation between Israeli forces and activists aboard an aid-bearing ship off the Gaza coast deserves to be condemned and requires "a full investigation."

"But what we also know is that the situation in Gaza is unsustainable," Obama said.

The U.S. president said he and Abbas "had very extensive discussions about how we could help to promote a better approach to Gaza."

"We agree that Israelis have the right to prevent arms from entering into Gaza that can be used to launch attacks into Israeli territory," Obama said. "But we also think that it is important for us to explore new mechanisms so that we can have goods and services, and economic development, and the ability of people to start their own businesses, and to grow the economy and provide opportunity within Gaza."

The U.S. president says much work remains to create a two-state solution that provides both for a secure Israel and an independent homeland for the Palestinian people.

"I did share with President Abbas, in order for us to be successful in these next several months, that both sides have to create an environment, a climate, that is going to be conducive to an actual breakthrough," Obama said. "And that means on the Israeli side, curbing settlement activity and recognizing some of the progress that has been made by the Palestinian Authority when it comes to issues like security. It means on the Palestinian side -- and I was very frank with President Abbas that we have to continue to make more progress on both security as well as incitement issues."

Abbas said he appreciates Obama's desire to see that "we push forward the political process as soon as possible."

"We know that time is of essence; we know that we must not miss this opportunity," Abbas said. "We affirm the importance of bringing about peace and security in the region.

"And we also see the need to lift the Israeli siege of the Palestinian people, the need to open all the crossings, and the need to let building material and humanitarian material and all the necessities go into the Palestinian people."

Abbas said his government has "nothing to do with incitement against Israel."

Obama said the United States has pledged another $400 million to support housing, school construction and business development in Gaza and the West Bank "because we think it's important for us to reaffirm once again our commitment to improving the day-to-day lives of ordinary Palestinians."

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