Jun 15, 2010 12:51 PM by Melissa Canone

June 15, Day 56 of the Gulf of Mexico oil spill

A summary of events on Tuesday, June 15, Day 56 of the Gulf of
Mexico oil spill that began with the April 20 explosion and fire on
the drilling rig Deepwater Horizon, owned by Transocean Ltd. and
leased by BP PLC, which is in charge of cleanup and containment.
The blast killed 11 workers. Since then, oil has been pouring into
the Gulf from a blown-out undersea well.

President Barack Obama is visiting Florida's Pensacola Beach on
the second day of a tour of Gulf states affected by the massive BP
oil spill. Obama strolled the beach Tuesday morning with Florida
Gov. Charlie Crist and Coast Guard Adm. Thad Allen, who is
overseeing the government's response to the environmental disaster.
Obama walked to the edge of the emerald green water, then went to a
snack shop. As he walked away, a crowd of people behind ropes began
chanting "Save our beach, save our beach." It wasn't clear if the
president heard them. Obama is set to give a prime-time address to
the nation from the Oval Office.

A majority of Americans disapprove of how Obama has handled the
devastating Gulf oil spill, though far more blame BP for what
people call a sluggish two-month response. That's according to a
new Associated Press-GfK poll. The survey found that 52 percent say
they don't approve of Obama's handling of the spill, a shift from
last month when a big chunk of people withheld judgment. But
Obama's overall job performance rating didn't take a hit; it stayed
virtually the same at 50 percent. The public is directing most of
its ire at the oil company that leased the rig that caused the leak
of millions of gallons of crude. A stunning 83 percent disapprove
of BP's performance in the aftermath of the rig explosion.

The chief executive of Exxon Mobil Corp. tells Congress the Gulf
oil spill wouldn't have happened if BP had properly designed its
deepwater well, followed procedures, trained its employees and
conducted adequate tests. Exxon's Rex Tillerson was testifying on
Capitol Hill with other oil company executives before the House
Energy and Commerce Committee. He told lawmakers the 1989 Exxon
Valdez tanker spill changed the way his company operated. In
prepared testimony, Tillerson wrote that Exxon doesn't go ahead
with operations "if we cannot do so safely."

Two congressmen reviewing oil spill response plans of the
nation's five largest oil companies said they are nearly identical
- and are all unprepared for an oil spill. Rep. Ed Markey, chairman
of a House Energy panel, said the plans "cite identical response
capabilities and tout identical ineffective equipment." The
committee looked at plans of BP along with those of ExxonMobil,
Chevron, ConocoPhillips and Shell Oil.

BP said it was speeding up payments for large commercial claims.
The company said in a statement that it has approved initial
payments toward 90 percent of large commercial claims filed as a
result of financial losses in the Deepwater Horizon explosion and
spill. BP said it approved 337 payments totaling $16 million to
businesses that have filed claims larger than $5,000 apiece.
Initial payments began over the weekend and will be completed this
week, the company said. The Obama administration has pressured BP
to speed up payments of claims in the wake of the Gulf oil spill.

The high-noon heat beats down like a fist along the Gulf Coast,
but crews cleaning up the oil spill wear white plastic suits, with
yellow boots and thick blue plastic gloves. The suits protect the
hundreds of workers cleaning up oil. But they also make for a
sweaty - and potentially dangerous - mess as a heat wave sweeps
across the region. Forecasters this week issued an excessive heat
advisory for unrelenting high temperatures across the region.

Tracey Winspeare said her Canadian uncle warned her before she
traveled to Mississippi: Oil is washing up on the beaches from a
ruptured well in the Gulf of Mexico. He was wrong. Winspeare, who
lives near Cambridge, England, sunbathed Monday on a clean stretch
of white sand in Long Beach. Geography and water currents have
spared the area - like all beaches in Mississippi - from the worst
of the two-month-old spill.

An influential ratings agency downgraded BP on Tuesday because
of worries about the continuing Gulf of Mexico spill, sending the
oil company's shares to a new low. Shares in BP fell below 350
pence for the first time since the oil rig disaster, dropping 2.5
percent to $5.12 by midafternoon on the London Stock Exchange.
Fitch Ratings downgraded BP's long-term issuer default rating and
senior unsecured rating to BBB from AA.


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