+ The the oil has stopped flowing — for now — but officials are urging caution (more after the jump).
+ House Democrats introduced a proposed constitutional amendment banning offshore drilling in Florida waters, which must be ratified by the legislature before Aug. 4 to appear on the November ballot.
+ House Republicans expect a “short stay” in Tallahassee during next week’s session (more after the jump).
+ The Surgeon General has raised concerns about the mental health of cleanup workers.
+ Several faith-based groups are providing food to distressed panhandle residents.
+ BP’s claims payments have so far exceeded $200 million.
The well has been capped
“Cautiously optimistic” seems to be the mood.
President Barack Obama said Friday the progress was good news, but cautioned an anxious public not to “get too far ahead of ourselves.” Obama said the cap was still being tested and there was still an “enormous clean up job” and ensuring quick compensation for Gulf residents and business in the offing.
There was no evidence of a leak in the pipe under the sea floor, Wells said, one of the main concerns. Wells said the results were encouraging 17 hours after valves were shut to trap oil inside the cap, a test that could last up to 48 hours.
He said pressure continued to rise inside the tight-fighting cap, a good sign that oil was not getting out somewhere else. The pressure was more than 6,700 pounds per square inch, above the minimum they were hoping to see, but not yet in the high range of 8,000 to 9,000 psi they were hoping for.
“The pressures we’ve seen so far are consistent with the engineering analysis work that BP has done,” Wells said. “It’s been a very steady build.”
Speaking from the Rose Garden, Obama repeated that refrain.
Appearing in the Rose Garden before taking off for a long weekend in Maine, Mr. Obama said he and the government were staying on top of the problem and that all decisions would be based on science, “not based on PR, not based on politics.” The final solution, he noted, will be the relief wells expected to be complete next month, and then after that attention still needs to be paid to the cleanup and compensation.
“The new cap is good news,” he said. “Either we will be able to use it to stop the flow or we will be able to use it to capture almost all the oil until the relief well is done.” But he added: “It’s important that we don’t get ahead of ourselves here. One of the problems with having the camera down there is that when the oil stops gushing, everybody feels like we’re done, and we’re not.”
Here’s what they’re saying in the panhandle.
What will come out of the special session?
House Speaker Larry Cretul, R-Ocala, sent a strong signal Thursday that the House plans to reject Crist’s proposal by simply ignoring it. Cretul told his counterpart in the Senate, President Jeff Atwater, R- North Palm Beach: “Expect your stay to be very short next week.”
The governor can call lawmakers back to Tallahassee, but he can’t control what they do when they arrive. The House could convene the session and then promptly adjourn without holding any hearings or taking any votes.
Republican leaders seem less than willing to hand the newly independent Gov. Charlie Crist an easy legislative victory.
“Our job, and our intention, is to develop public policy that will actually help Floridians and improve the ever-changing situation on the ground,” he continued. “In my opinion, we aren’t going to be able to do that responsibly in a four-day photo-op session.”
Crist said he is open to addressing economic issues but they were “not as time-sensitive” as meeting the Aug. 4 deadline to put an amendment on the ballot.
Meanwhile, Republican leaders are coalescing around the idea of another session after the primary elections to deal with giving businesses and property owners affected by the spill a break, among other issues.