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Gulf Oil Spill Claims Transfer to Independent Fund

An independent facility is now processing claims for the Gulf of Mexico oil spill disaster.

The administration of the $20 billion fund created by energy giant BP has been transferred to the Gulf Coast Claims Facility.

The claims money is being handled by attorney Kenneth Feinberg, who ran the U.S. government's compensation fund for the victims of the September 11, 2001 terror attacks.

Feinberg says he plans to be more generous than any court would be in issuing payments. He says a claimant's proximity to the affected area will play a large role in eligibility.

Those who need immediate financial assistance can apply for emergency payments without waiving the right to further legal action.

Feinberg says final payments will only be made to those who agree to release BP from any further liability.

Individuals and businesses have three months to apply for emergency aid and three years to request final compensation.

BP has already issued $375 million in compensation for the spill.

Meanwhile, a fourth round of hearings started Monday in a federal probe into the cause of the deadly oil rig explosion.

Federal investigators are hearing testimony from executives from BP and oil rig-owner Transocean throughout the week in Houston, Texas.

An April 20 explosion on a BP-leased oil rig killed 11 workers, ruptured the well and sent oil gushing into the Gulf. Scientists estimate nearly 5 million barrels of oil leaked from the damaged well before it was capped in mid-July.

The BP disaster is the worst offshore oil spill in history and has severely affected the fishing and tourism industries of the Gulf Coast.

Some information for this report was provided by AP.