News / USA

BP Plans Steel Cap for Underwater Oil Spill

Energy giant BP says it has finished building a massive steel cap for the undersea oil leak that is fouling the Gulf of Mexico and threatening major environmental damage.

BP officials said Monday they hope to have the cap in place on the sea floor in about a week.  Company spokesman Tom Mueller says officials are hopeful the cap may stop the leak, but it is not a permanent solution.

Steel workers in Louisiana began building the nearly 70-ton cap in the days after the leak was discovered at the site of a damaged well that had been connected to an oil rig.  The rig exploded and sank several days ago, killing 11 workers.

Earlier, BP said it will pay for all the cleanup costs from the ruptured oil well.  The company says it will pay compensation for legitimate claims for property damage and commercial losses stemming from the accident.

BP also says efforts to seal the leak include construction of a relief well.

BP says it could take about three months to drill the well.

Chemical dispersants are also being pumped down to the source of the leak in an effort to keep the oil from flowing to the surface.   

U.S. President Barack Obama visited Louisiana on Sunday and laid the blame for the leak on BP.  President Obama has promised that the U.S. government will do "whatever it takes, for as long as it takes" to clean up the spill.

Government officials say the oil slick has crept to within 14 kilometers of the Mississippi and Louisiana shores.  It closed in on the marshlands of Louisiana last week.

Lawyers representing some of the affected fisherman told CNN and Fox News they have filed lawsuits against BP to get financial relief following the spill.  

Some U.S. senators also have introduced legislation to increase the amount of money big oil companies can be forced to pay for economic damages stemming from catastrophic spills.  The law currently caps liability limits at $75 million, but the proposal would increase the figure to $10 billion.

Also Monday, several U.S. officials met with BP's chief executive officer, Tony Hayward, to discuss the oil spill.

Homeland Security Secretary Janet Napolitano, Interior Secretary Ken Salazar,  Energy Secretary Stephen Chu and Lisa Jackson, administrator of the Environmental Protection Agency, met with Hayward for the talks on coordinated response efforts to the spill.



Some information for this report was provided by AP, AFP and Reuters.

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