Excerpt from the Miami Herald:
"Cement sealing the oil well has hardened. Meanwhile, Obama officials promise to remain focused on the problem.
BP announced Sunday that cement sealing the busted oil well in the Gulf of Mexico had hardened, clearing the path for the final phase of drilling a relief well.
Meanwhile, Obama administration officials promised Sunday to remain focused on the Gulf Coast -- punishing BP for the worst oil spill in U.S. history, and cleaning up what remains of the mess.
BP said that pressure tests on the cement plug poured down the throat of the blown-out well show the seal is solidly in place.
That means BP engineers can begin drilling the final 100 feet of a relief well meant to permanently seal the blowout.
Crews will carefully drill about 30 feet at a time, and BP says it will likely be next weekend before the two wells meet. BP didn't make it clear Sunday if workers had begun drilling.
Engineers will use the relief well for a ``bottom kill,'' pumping more mud and cement into the busted well in what is expected to completely seal the well for good.
On NBC's Meet the Press Sunday, White House climate and energy czar Carol Browner defended the administration's finding that three-quarters of the 4.9 million barrels (205.8 million gallons) of oil has either disappeared or is in the process of disappearing. Asked if BP had concurred with that calculation of the total oil that escaped -- a key number, since the oil company's punishment might depend on the size of the spill -- Browner said: ``I think BP has been silent. But that doesn't matter. We will hold them accountable.''
Browner said she wouldn't speculate about whether the six-month moratorium on deep-water drilling might be lifted early.
She also said Obama would be serving gulf seafood to guests attending his birthday party Sunday at the White House.
Meanwhile, along the Gulf Coast, such news has not stopped the rumors and suspicions that have multiplied as the oil's sheen has faded.
Those who rely on the Gulf of Mexico's rich fishing grounds say there's a new crisis brewing -- convincing skeptical consumers that the seafood they harvest and sell is safe to eat.
The Gulf's fisheries are beginning to reopen more than three months after the oil began gushing from the sea floor, but those in the seafood industry say that doesn't mean everything has returned to normal.
``We have a huge perception problem,'' said Ewell Smith, director of the Louisiana Seafood Promotion and Marketing Board. ``We have lost markets across the country, and some of them may be lost for good.''
More fishing grounds have reopened since BP's blown-out well was corked July 15, and engineers made important progress last week by forcing heavy mud and cement into the well to push the crude back underground.
Even with the progress that has been made, safety suspicions abound. The Gulf accounts for a majority of the domestic shrimp and oysters eaten by Americans and about 2 percent of overall U.S. seafood consumption. But consumers are turning up their noses and some wary suppliers appear to be turning to imports."
Read more: http://www.miamiherald.com/2010/08/08/1767337/path-cleared-for-final-phase.html#ixzz0w7IqZxp9
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