Storm could be latest problem in oil cleanup

NEW ORLEANS Forecasters say that it's too early to tell exactly where /*Tropical Storm Alex*/ might go or how it might affect oil on and below the surface of the /*Gulf of Mexico*/.

If gale-force winds are predicted within five days, /*BP*/ will begin moving the armada of ships working on the spill, including the rigs drilling two relief wells that are the best hope of stopping the oil. The oil giant says it would need about five days to move or secure all the equipment.

BP is working on a different containment system that would be easier to disconnect and hook back up if a storm interrupted the work.

The wells are projected to be done by mid-August if bad weather doesn't interrupt the drilling.

/*Coast Guard*/ authorities said Saturday that officials are watching Alex carefully, even though the current forecast shows it churning toward Mexico and missing the northern /*Gulf Coast*/ and the spill.

BP says its effort to drill through 2.5 miles of rock to relieve pressure on the well is on target. Once the new well intersects the ruptured one, BP says it plans to pump in heavy drilling mud to stop the oil flow and plug the well with cement.

BP is capturing anywhere from 840,000 to 1.2 million gallons of oil a day. Worst-case government estimates say 2.5 million gallons a day are leaking from the well, though no one really knows for sure.

Latest Developments:

  • A financial disclosure report released Friday shows that the Louisiana judge who struck down the Obama administration's six-month ban on deep-water drilling in the Gulf has sold many of his energy investments. U.S. District Judge Martin Feldman still owns eight energy-related investments, including stock in Exxon Mobil Corp. Among the assets he sold was stock in Transocean, which owned the rig that exploded. The Justice Department asked a federal appeals court Friday to delay Feldman's ruling "to preserve the status quo" during the government's appeal.
  • Labor Secretary Hilda Solis slammed BP - along with /*Massey Energy*/, owner of the West Virginia coal mine where 29 workers died in an explosion in April - saying they need better safety measures. "We are not saying go out of business," she said. "Do your job better. Make an investment in your employees. We want you to make a profit, but not at the expense of killing your employees."
  • /*Vice President Joe Biden*/ will head to the Gulf on Tuesday to visit a command center in /*New Orleans*/ and the oil-fouled /*Florida*/ Panhandle.
  • The /*IRS*/ said payments for lost wages from BP's $20 billion victims compensation fund are taxable just like regular income. Payments for physical injuries or property loss are generally tax-free.
  • The Associated Press contributed to this report.

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