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Dems to Transocean: Delay dividend payouts

Dems to Transocean: Delay dividend payouts
Oil and gas are burned off the surface of the water at the BP Deepwater Horizon oil spill site in the Gulf of Mexico June 19, 2010. UPI/A.J. Sisco.. | License Photo

VENICE, La., June 25 (UPI) -- Senate Democrats asked Transocean officials to delay paying about $1 billion in dividends until it finalizes its obligations for the Gulf of Mexico oil spill.

In a letter sent Thursday to Transocean CEO Steven Newman, Democrats said they did not think shareholders should be reassured without addressing the company's responsibilities to Gulf Coast communities affected by the oil that has been leaking from the sunken Transocean Deepwater Horizon rig since April 20, The Hill reported Friday.

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"It seems inexplicable to us that, while a full accounting of your company's financial responsibilities is not yet clear, you are still planning to issue $1 billion in dividends as if no accident had occurred," the senators wrote. "While we understand your need to reassure shareholders during these difficult times for your company, we do not believe that such reassurances should come at the expense of meeting your responsibilities to the communities of the Gulf Coast."

Senators earlier urged BP to suspend its shareholder dividend payments until Gulf residents were compensated for the spill. BP announced last week would suspend dividend payments for the year after its officials met with President Barack Obama.

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The senators tried to encourage Newman to follow suit.

"Many things remain unclear about what happened on the Deepwater Horizon," they wrote. "Before your company begins to reward its shareholders, we urge you to follow BP's example by withholding further shareholder rewards until investigations of this matter are complete."

Meanwhile, BP said it spent $2.35 billion in the Gulf of Mexico oil spill for cleanup, containment, and paying claims and grants to states affected by the spill.

A total of 364,500 barrels of oil had been recovered or flared (burned) by two containment systems so far, BP said on its Web site Friday. On June 23, the latest day for which BP had data, the systems had collected or flared 6,830 barrels of oil and 36.7 million cubic feet of gas, the company said.

Oil is flowing into the gulf at the rate of 35,000 to 60,000 barrels a day, government and independent scientists estimate.

Preparations continue for the next step in containment operations, BP said. Work on a floating riser containment system to be connected to the Helix Producer vessel is on schedule, and is expected to begin operations at the end of June or early July, the company said. Plans also are being developed for more containment capacity and flexibility.

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Work on two relief wells, which began May 2 and May 15, also continues, BP said. Officials estimate the wells will take about three months to complete.

Administration officials met with BP executives Thursday to discuss issues such as containment, redundancy, the claims process and scientific monitoring, the Interior Department said in a release.

The administration said 75,106 claims have been opened and reported more than $125.9 million being disbursed. No claims have been denied to date, the government said.

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