Summary of oil-leak events on Friday
Scientists with the University of South Florida say laboratory tests have confirmed that oil from the spewing Gulf of Mexico well has accumulated in at least two extensive plumes deep underwater.
BATON ROUGE, La. — Scientists with the University of South Florida say laboratory tests have confirmed that oil from the spewing Gulf of Mexico well has accumulated in at least two extensive plumes deep underwater.
The researchers said in Baton Rouge on Friday that the tests confirmed their initial findings, which were based on field instruments. BP has claimed there are no plumes underwater and said Friday the company is awaiting further analysis to see whether any data indicate the plumes contain oil.
The researchers say the extensive layers of oil are sitting far beneath the surface miles from the site of the Deepwater Horizon explosion.
Tests are continuing and final results are expected Monday.
Experts support use of dispersants
A federal panel of about 50 experts is recommending the continued use of chemical dispersants to break up the oil in the Gulf, despite its harm to plankton, larvae and fish.
Panel member Ron Tjeerdema said Friday the panel decided the animals harmed by the chemicals underwater had a better chance of rebounding quickly than birds and mammals on the shoreline. Tjeerdema chairs the Department of Environmental Toxicology at the University of California, Davis.
Officials have released just over a million gallons of chemicals on and in the water since the April 20 blowout.
Clean Water Act could reap billions
If the Obama administration is serious about holding BP and others responsible for the Gulf spill, it can start with the federal Clean Water Act, which could allow the federal government to collect up to $4.7 billion in civil fines just for the oil spilled so far.
Even if the courts allow the fines, however, there are no guarantees the money would go to the cleanup and economic recovery of the Gulf Coast, according to legal experts.
Though other laws could come into play, the Clean Water Act may provide the best avenue for legal action. After the 1989 Exxon Valdez spill in Alaska, the law was beefed up to include harsh civil and criminal penalties for oil spills.
Investments prove problem for judges
A New Orleans federal judge presiding over lawsuits related to the Gulf oil spill says he sold his investment in companies linked to the disaster to avoid any appearance he might be biased.
"So there is no perception of a conflict in these cases, yesterday I instructed my broker to sell the few Transocean and Halliburton bonds in my account," U.S. District Judge Carl Barbier said in an e-mail.
BP and Transocean oil-spill lawsuits may be combined before a judge from outside the Gulf Coast states because judges in the region are withdrawing from cases, citing conflicts of interest.
Six of 12 active judges assigned to the federal judicial district based in New Orleans already have removed themselves from spill-damage lawsuits, according to a court official and public records.
Several additional federal judges in districts based in Lafayette, La.; Mobile, Ala.; and Pensacola, Fla., have also disqualified themselves, according to public records.
White House visit for families of dead
The families of the 11 workers killed when the Deepwater Horizon oil rig exploded will visit the White House next week.
White House spokesman Robert Gibbs said Friday that President Obama had written to the 11 families to extend the invitation so that he can pay personal condolences. The visit is scheduled for Thursday.
Some fishermen get good news
More than 16,000 square miles of fishing waters off the Florida coast are reopening after officials said Gulf oil did not move into the area.
The most significant reopening is a nearly 14,000-square-mile area just west of the Florida Keys and Dry Tortugas. The National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration closed the area Wednesday as a precaution.
Additionally, the agency closed a 2,275-square-mile area off the Florida Panhandle.
The total closed area is more than 78,000 square miles, about 32 percent of Gulf of Mexico federal waters.
Seattle Times news services
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