Gulf Oil Spill: 50 Days Into Crisis, Where Do Things Stand?

"There aren't any plumes," BP CEO Tony Hayward said on May 30, echoing his company's suggestion that the oil would rise to the surface.

And back on May 17, NOAA dismissed university researchers' claims about plumes as "misleading, premature and, in some cases, inaccurate."

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Today, NOAA acknowledged a different reality.

"NOAA is confirming the presence of very low concentrations of subsurface oil," said administrator Jane Lubchenco. "The bottom line is yes, there is oil in the water column.

Tests confirm that oil collected from undersea plumes 40 nautical miles northeast of the site of the Deepwater Horizon accident has the same oil "fingerprint" as that which is gushing out of the well. Even in low concentrations, oily water threatens marine animals by depleting the ocean's oxygen content.

But despite weeks of warning about the threat of oily plumes, government authorities didn't seem to be prepared to deal with a crude problem that can't be skimmed off the surface.

"We have not generally done subsurface responses," Adm. Allen told a news conference today. "In my own personal experience, I have not dealt with it."

VIDEO: David Muir on the effort to save the animals affected by the oil spill.
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BP Encounters Criticism Over Claims

As for BP, the company announced today that it will donate net revenue from the oil recovered from the spill to help fund wildlife recovery efforts. At current recovery rates, that would amount to about $1.1 million per day.

The company has also promised to pay all "legitimate claims" related to the spill.

Today, Alabama Gov. Bob Riley called on the National Guardsmen to help spread the word that the condo owners, fishing captains and others are all eligible to apply for compensation from BP, Adm. Allen said

The company says it has already spent $49 million on claims, but across the Gulf, tens of thousands of workers and business owners whose livelihoods have been affected by the accident say they're now running out of money, waiting for checks from BP.

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On top of that, many are now learning that payments for lost revenue will not be based on what would have been a big season this year -- they'll be based instead on the last three years.

For many fishermen and other Gulf Coast workers, they had been awful years, with paychecks battered by the effects of Hurricane Katrina.

Why?

"Well, we have to start somewhere," a BP spokesperson told ABC News today.

BP says that 90 percent of claims paid so far have gone to individual workers, the rest to businesses. Business owners say they've been required to turn over a mountain of paperwork, keeping track of taxes, receipts and other records.

Boat welder Bill Farmer says he has already lost $45,000 in business, but he and others refuse to let BP get away by paying a tiny claim.

"They have the same fears I have. What if we settle for a little bit and this impacts us for the next five years?" Farmer said.

Hayward to Appear Before Congress

BP also said that CEO Tony Hayward will appear before a congressional subcommittee on June 17 to testify about his company's role in the spill, where he's sure to face pointed questions and criticism.

Today on Capitol Hill, a brother of a man killed in the Deepwater Horizon explosion already had a message for Hayward.

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