+A BP beach cleanup operation in the Panhandle “was quietly terminated over the weekend,” the Pensacola News-Journal reports.

+The well has been capped (thanks in part to the leadership of this man). But now what? More after the jump.

+Many businesses are finding that the claims they receive fall far short of covering their losses.

+BP (or perhaps some other company, given the public relations implications) will likely exploit the oil reservoir that was the source of the spill, eventually. A vast majority of its reserves are still below the ocean floor, the New York Times reports.

+BP announced it will join an alliance of oil companies working on improving the response to future spills. Kevin Costner says he has a better idea.

+Although, in the words of one Florida official, “So far no contaminated seafood has entered the stream of commerce,” would-be customers remain wary.

+This graphic shows more wells built more frequently at increasingly greater depths in the Gulf of Mexico over the past six decades.

The well has been capped. What now?

It’s a milestone that offers little comfort to Gulf Coast residents, who continue to struggle both emotionally and economically, the Associated Press reports. Indeed, the focus of much of the coverage of this weekend’s achievement seems to be on the challenges that still lie ahead.

For one thing, the Obama administration should keep its moratorium on deepwater drilling in place until the oil industry can improve safeguards, the St. Petersburg Times argues in an editorial.

The editorial also notes that Kenneth Feinberg “gave no promises” in his announcement to representatives of the state’s tourism industry that he would ease geographic restrictions on claims elligibility.

The point of the having BP turn its compensation funds over to an independent administrator is to get payments to people who deserve them and spare an avalanche of lawsuits from clogging the courts. Feinberg has an obligation to weed out fraudulent claims. He also needs to realize that the geography of the spill is not the geography of its impact.

State officials need to keep the recovery effort on the radar. Chief Financial Officer Alex Sink was right last week to push the Florida Cabinet to urge Feinberg to pick up the pace. That unified effort across party lines could mean the difference for cash-strapped Floridians recovering across the Panhandle.

What about all that underwater oil? Kate Shepard delves into some of the recent research, which seems to suggest that although many of the worst-case scenarios haven’t come to pass, oil- and gas-related chemicals could remain adrift in the Gulf for quite some time.

Research published this week in Science indicates that there may be four separate plumes of hydrocarbons under the water. David Valentine, a professor of microbial geochemistry in the Department of Earth Science at the University of California, Santa Barbara estimated that there’s “about a million barrels of oil” contained in these plumes (approximately a quarter of the total amount of oil spilled in the Gulf). And there’s about two times as much gas in the plumes, said the researchers …

… The research also suggests that bacteria in the Gulf are consuming the propane and ethane released from the well faster than they’re consuming more complex hydrocarbons like methane and oil. Propane and ethane were the “primary drivers of microbial respiration,” the research team found, accounting for up to 70 percent of the oxygen depletion in the undersea plumes. (As the microbes feast on the hydrocarbons, they must use oxygen in the water, which is why the oxygen depletion levels are used to gauge their activity.)  This puts a bit of a damper on reports released a few weeks ago claiming that Gulf microbes were eating oil at record rates.

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