BP Oil Spill: Containment Cap Installed on Leak, As Anger Surges Over Slow Claims Payouts

Government's Thad Allen says BP 'very close' to stopping oil once and for all.

July 12, 2010, 6:18 AM

July 12, 2010— -- BP has successfully lowered a new containment cap onto its leaking well, its latest attempt to control the gushing oil since the start of the disaster in the Gulf of Mexico 84 days ago.

Underwater video of the well showed the new 18-foot, 150,000-pound cap being placed onto the wellhead. The company will soon begin the process of testing the fit that could finally contain all of the leaking oil.

Watch 'World News' for more of Diane Sawyer's coverage from the Gulf Coast.

But even with that sign of success, anger continued to bubble across the Gulf Coast today over unfulfilled damage claims.

Gulf residents say they've been required to fill out mountains of detailed paperwork, but all the forms could amount to nothing if they forget one little thing and BP refuses to pay.

"I done gave them this paperwork three times," one frustrated resident told ABC News today.

Some frustrated fishermen, who haven't been able to work since the start of the spill, said today that BP is doing everything to try to refuse to pay their claims.

Fisherman Darrell Moreaux went to the BP claims office today for a fourth time, with a fistful of receipts trying to prove his claim to a $5,000 check.

"Everyone's dependent on these people now, and we don't know what's the holdup," Moreaux said.

Moreaux said he left broke and broken, his claim rejected once again.

"Where am I gonna go? Who do I need to talk to to pay my electric bill this month? My water bill for this month?" Moreaux said. "I'm gonna be two months behind now. It's disgusting."

BP said that it is swamped by more than 100,000 claims and admits it has yet to approve half of them. In most cases, the company says, they are waiting for more proof of lost income.

But elected officials say that all the proof they need is at the quiet marinas.

"Give them $25,000, give them $50,000 while you work out his claim," said Plaquemines Parish President Billy Nungesser.

Today, Kenneith Feinberg, the man charged by the Obama administration to administer BP's $20 billion claims fund, said that he'll be able to help. Feinberg will get control of the money next month, once funds are finalized.

"I will do everything I can to accelerate the payments," Feinberg said. "Not emergency payments of one month but emergency payments for six months at a time."

At a hearing in New Orleans today before the president's commission investigating the spill, residents aired their anger at federal officials, BP, and the entire oil industry.

"We don't need any more cheap energy, no matter how much our politicians will beg for it," said one man who identified himself as Christopher. "Recognize that the ills that exist here in Louisiana are of [the oil industry's] own making."

Today, the Obama administration issued a new, revised moratorium on offshore drilling, after its previous attempt to cut off approval of deep-water projects was rejected by a federal appeals court as too heavy-handed.

Interior Secretary Ken Salazar announced that the new moratorium, in effect through November 30, will not be based on the water depth of the platform.

BP Lowers New Containment Cap

Offshore at the site of the disaster, BP hopes that its latest bid to control the leak will finally pay off, three months into the disaster.

Today, an armada of deep-sea robots moved around a new containment cap as it was lowered onto the site. The cap, it is hoped, will form a tighter seal with the well and allow BP to capture all of the oil that is being released from the well.

"This certainly is an important day in the evolution of this response," National Incident Cmdr. Thad Allen told ABC's Diane Sawyer today. "If all goes according to plan, we could initiate a well test tomorrow morning that could tell us where we need to go from here."

Oil will continue to gush until the robots shut off three valves, a step that could happen by Tuesday. BP will conduct pressure tests for a 6-to-48 hour period before they know whether the new cap has been a success.

In preparation for this maneuver, the original, leaky cap was removed from the broken wellhead over the weekend, allowing 2.5 million gallons of oil to spew per day. Some fear that the new cap could buckle under the extreme pressures spewing out of the ocean floor and spawn new leaks in the pipe.

"This may actually work. We're hoping so," said Dr. Michio Kaku, author of "Physics of the Impossible." "But this is a science experiment at 5,000-feet of water. High pressure is the single reason why we're having so much difficulty, because the basic science of working at high pressure was not done years ago."

If all goes according to plan, the oil will be funneled to the Helix Producer, a ship that recently arrived at the site that could soon contain roughly a million gallons of oil per day.

Drilling of the relief wells that BP says offer a permanent fix to the leak could be completed by the end of the month, the company said. Though the relief wells are now 5 feet away from the target, it would take another few weeks to fill them with cement.

The Associated Press contributed to this report.

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