Storm in Gulf will delay relief well drilling

NEW ORLEANS Retired /*Coast Guard Adm. Thad Allen*/ said the temporary halt could delay completion of the relief well by two or three days.

Crews will place a temporary plug atop what they're already drilled to keep their work safe, but they won't have to remove the drill or send workers back to land.

So far, they have about 30 feet left to drill.

The new well is meant to allow /*BP*/ to pump mud and cement into the broken one from deep underground for a so-called bottom kill that would complement a mud and cement plug injected into the top of the well last week.

Allen has insisted that BP go ahead with the bottom kill, even though the top plug appeared to be holding. On Tuesday, though, he said testing still needs to be done on the well before a final decision is made.

Finishing the relief well and sealing the busted one with mud and cement should be the final act of the three-month /*oil spill*/ drama that has upended the lives of fishermen and others along the /*Gulf Coast*/.

Latest Developments:

  • With no more oil spewing since the well was capped in mid-July, federal authorities were set to announce that a stretch of the Gulf off Florida's Panhandle would be reopened for commercial and recreational fishing, a big business for the region.
  • The U.S. Judicial Panel on Multidistrict Litigation said 77 cases plus more than 200 potential "tag-along" actions will be transferred to U.S. District Judge Carl Barbier.
  • BP is prepared to finish sealing the well. One man will guide the drill more than two miles beneath the seafloor and three miles from the surface, trying to hit a target less than half the size of a dartboard. The drill is about as wide as a grapefruit.
  • The man BP has picked to finish the job, John Wright, has hit the mark every time, a perfect record of 40 wells capped without a miss across the world in four decades of work. If he misses, engineers will pull the drill bit up, pour concrete in the off-track hole and then try again.
  • Allen is planning a three-day trip to Louisiana, Mississippi and Alabama this week to talk with local officials about how to speed up cleanup as the peak of hurricane season approaches.
  • BP announced on Monday that it has spent $6.1 billion responding to the spill since the April 20 explosion on the Deepwater Horizon killed 11 workers, sending the rig to the bottom of the sea and oil spewing 5,000 feet underwater.
  • The Justice Department and BP also announced that they have finished negotiations for a $20 billion fund for spill victims. BP has made a $3 billion initial deposit.

The Associated Press contributed to this report.

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