+ For the first time since April, BP has gained control of the Deepwater Horizon oil well.

+ Harry Reid has delayed oil spill response legislation (previously known as climate change and then energy legislation), at least until Congress returns in September. The oil industry is pleased. The Wall Street Journal had reported that the bill would affect some drilling companies — namely those with older fleets — worse than others.

+ Scientists released their latest estimates of the size of the spill, and said it’s officially the largest of its kind; 4.9 million barrels have spilled, but more than one-fifth has been contained and most of the rest appears to have dissipated (more after the jump). The government is expected to release a detailed report later today.

+ Florida is now open to fishing.

+ Nervousness, rashes, and concerns about seafood are among the wide-ranging anxieties held by gulf residents according to a recent survey.

+ Staff at the Unified Command’s Miami headquarters, which never had beaches to clean, invented the Shallow Water Oil Recovery Device (or SWORD), designed to pick up tar balls close to shore.

+ Sen. Bill Nelson is raising concerns over the “toxic brew” of oil and dispersants in the Gulf. The EPA says the kind used in the spill response isn’t any more toxic than other forms of dispersant.

BP acknowledges plans to delay some claims payments
ProPublica explains why some claims are stuck in bureaucratic limbo.

The company’s claims process is guided by the Oil Pollution Act, a 1990 federal law that holds oil companies responsible for repaying direct “removal costs and damages [1]” caused by a spill. But many claims are for damages that are not explicitly covered by the law — such as ruined start-up companies and lost income from commission payments — and many of those are in limbo.

BP appears to be delaying claims that are not covered by the Oil Pollution Act until the process is taken over in mid-August by Kenneth Feinberg, the independent administrator appointed by President Barack Obama to oversee the compensation process. Feinberg has said that his standards for judging claims will be more generous than the limits set by the Oil Pollution Act.

BP provides the following guidelines:

Currently Included

  • Restaurants or tourism businesses located in close proximity to a beach or marsh that has been oiled
  • Fisherman, shrimpers, oyster harvesters, etc., and charter boat operators who have been affected by the oil
  • Seafood processors in the affected area who do not have any seafood to process
  • Condo units located on beaches that have been closed due to oil

Deferred to Feinberg and GCCF

  • Restaurants or tourism businesses not located in close proximity to an oiled beach or marsh
  • Workers affected by the moratorium
  • Seafood processors outside the Gulf Coast states
  • Values of property not located in close proximity to a beach that was oiled

The question is where the lines will be drawn. How will “proximity to an oiled beach or march” be defined? Will fishermen who lost money because they couldn’t sell fish caught in clean waters be considered “affected by the oil”?

Millions of barrels of oil spilled — but where’d it all go?
Federal scientists released their most recent estimates on the size of the spill. Oil started gushing at more than 60,000 barrels per day, but as the pressure decreased, it slowed to 53,000 per day. All told, an estimated 4.9 million barrels spilled into the Gulf of Mexico.

According to The Washington Post:

That’s about a quarter of the new estimate for the total spill.Where the other three-quarters has gone is unclear. Some has evaporated; some has been consumed by microbes; but scientists remain troubled by the possibility that large amounts of oil remain underwater in cloudlike plumes.

“This further confirms that a lot of the oil is still at sea. And we just don’t know the implications of it,” said Ron Kendall, director of the Institute of Environmental and Human Health at Texas Tech University. Kendall will testify before Congress on Wednesday about his fears that dispersant chemicals have helped much of this oil sink into deep-sea habitats.

Previewing a government report scheduled for release later today, The New York Times reports that all but 26 percent of that oil — just over a million barrels — is now accounted for, whether it evaporated, dissipated, or was burned or contained by BP. That’s still something like three to five Exxon Valdez, but the resilience of the gulf is making those comparisons seem less valid by the day.

The warm, open gulf is no Prince William Sound. The Exxon Valdez may have been smaller, but so was the surrounding body of water. The oil was thicker, the water was colder and the spill occurred closer to shore.

All of this leads Mike Thomas to argue in the Orlando Sentinel that the parallels between the spills are bogus and that much of the spill coverage has consisted of “hysteria.”

For every oily bird, I saw a half-dozen interviews with an even oilier James Carville. Disaster coverage consisted of people talking about a disaster.

It became potential disaster coverage.

Oil coating Florida beaches.

Oil destroying the Key West reefs before heading north to destroy Cocoa Beach.

Oil destroying the Gulf of Mexico and wiping out the nation’s most productive fishery.

None of it came to pass. None of it will come to pass. Pensacola Beach is beautiful. Blue crabs are having sex in the Louisiana marsh. Closed sections of the Gulf are once again open to fishing. The seafood is safe.

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