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Saw freed; Attempt to cap oil spill continues

June 2, 2010 12:00:00 AM PDT
A stuck saw that had been stalling BP's latest effort to cut and cap the pipe that's gushing oil in the Gulf of Mexico has been successfully freed by underwater robots.

Undersea robots are attempting to slice into a pipe on the blown-out well when a diamond-edged saw. If crews are able to make the cut, they will attempt to place a cap on top of the oil gushing out. If the cut is not as smooth as engineers would like, they would be forced to put a looser fitting cap.

BP, the largest oil and gas producer in the Gulf, is saying it believes that the oil gushing into the Gulf could be contained as soon as Wednesday. Several other attempts have already failed.

The oil has been spreading in the Gulf since the Deepwater Horizon rig exploded six weeks ago, killing 11 workers and eventually sinking. The rig was being operated for BP.

Latest developments:

  • Oil is drifting close to the Florida Panhandle's white sand beaches for the first time. Winds were forecast to blow from the south and west, pushing the slick closer to western Panhandle beaches.
  • The Justice Department announced it started criminal and civil probes into the spill, although the department did not name specific targets for prosecution.
  • President Barack Obama said in prepared remarks that it was time to roll back billions of dollars in tax breaks for oil companies and use the money for clean energy research and development. He said the catastrophic Gulf oil spill shows the country must move toward clean energy, tapping natural gas and nuclear power and eliminating tax breaks for big oil.
  • Shares in British-based BP PLC were down 3 percent Wednesday morning in London trading after a 13 percent fall the day before. BP has lost $75 billion in market value since the spill started with an April 20 oil rig explosion and analysts expect damage claims to total billions more.
  • Attorney General Eric Holder, who visited the Gulf on Tuesday, would not say who might be targeted in the probes into the largest oil spill in U.S. history.
  • BP's best chance to permanently plug the leak rests with a pair of relief wells but those won't likely be completed until August.

Another setback for the fishing industry

Crude has already been reported along barrier islands in Alabama and Mississippi, and it has polluted some 125 miles of Louisiana coastline.

More federal fishing waters were closed, too, another setback for one of the region's most important industries. More than one-third of federal waters were off-limits for fishing, along with hundreds of square miles of state waters.

Fisherman Hong Le, who came to the U.S. from Vietnam, had rebuilt his home and business after Hurricane Katrina wiped him out. Now he's facing a similar situation.

"I'm going to be bankrupt very soon," Le, 53, said as he attended a meeting for fishermen hoping for help. "Everything is financed, how can I pay? No fishing, no welding. I weld on commercial fishing boats and they aren't going out now, so nothing breaks."

Le, like other of the fishermen, received $5,000 from BP PLC, but it was quickly gone.

"I call that 'Shut your mouth money,"' said Murray Volk, 46, of Empire, who's been fishing for nearly 30 years. "That won't pay the insurance on my boat and house. They say there'll be more later, but do you think the electric company will wait for that?"

The Associated Press contributed to this report.

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