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News Wrap: BP Plans to Cut Back Gulf Cleanup Efforts

July 30, 2010 at 6:11 PM EST
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In other news Friday, with no more oil spewing out of the well, BP says the cleanup efforts will decrease along the Gulf. Also a major flood killed 430 people in Pakistan.
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HARI SREENIVASAN: BP said today it’s set to cut back on the cleanup in the Gulf of Mexico now that the oil has stopped flowing. At the same time, crews hit a snag in the effort to plug the damaged well for good.

ROBERT DUDLEY, president and CEO, BP Gulf Coast Restoration Organization: It’s not too soon for a scale-back. We haven’t permanently, finally killed the well. I don’t think we will see any more oil going into the beaches.

HARI SREENIVASAN: With that, the new boss at BP, Bob Dudley, signaled the company will need fewer skimmer boats and fewer workers on the beach than it has been using. He noted the ruptured well has been capped for more than two weeks, although local leaders have insisted it’s far too soon to scale back.

But Dudley vowed today in Biloxi, Mississippi, that the oil giant is firmly committed to long-term recovery in the Gulf for years to come.

ROBERT DUDLEY: The commitment remains by BP to stay here along the communities of the Gulf Coast to make good, to restore the Gulf Coast, to make sure that the businesses and the individuals who have been affected by this spill, the longer-term impacts of oil on the marshes and on the beaches are remediated.

HARI SREENIVASAN: Dudley also announced the former head of the Federal Emergency Management Agency James Lee Witt will head those efforts. And BP began setting up a separate $100 million fund to compensate oil workers who lost their jobs under the federal moratorium on deepwater drilling.

Out in the Gulf, crews had planned to begin plugging the blown well this weekend, but that was delayed until at least Tuesday, after they found debris in a relief well.

The plan for the so-called static kill calls for permanently filling the damaged Macondo well in two stages, first through the cap, pumping in mud and cement from the top. After that, the relief well would be used to finish the job from below, funneling more material into the main well shaft.

And, in Washington, the U.S. House moved today to approve new safety standards for drilling. The bill would also abolish the $75 million cap on an oil company’s liability.

That oil spill from a ruptured pipeline in Michigan has now been contained. The Canadian company that owns the line said it’s shifting to clean operations now at the Kalamazoo River. The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency estimates more than a million gallons of oil leaked, but it says the oil was stopped 80 miles short of Lake Michigan.

In Northwest Pakistan, officials reported at least 430 people killed in three days of flooding. Monsoon rains triggered landslides, sent rivers surging out of their banks, and submerged villages. At least 60 bridges were destroyed on the road connecting Peshawar to Islamabad. Forecasts called for some areas to get a respite, but others were likely to see more rain.

Huge sections of Central Russia are now under a state of emergency. Forest fires killed 25 people and scorched 200,000 acres this week, fueled by Russia’s hottest summer ever recorded. Entire villages burned to the ground, and more than 1,000 homes were destroyed. Prime Minister Vladimir Putin visited one damaged site today, promising to help rebuild.

And, in Moscow, President Dmitry Medvedev made the same pledge in a teleconference.

DMITRY MEDVEDEV, Russian president (through translator): As far as I understand, there is a separate problem regarding the large quantity of people who lost their houses. We need to prepare special programs on each of the regions that suffered from fires in order to provide temporary housing for those who lost their homes, and also to build new houses from modern, quality materials.

HARI SREENIVASAN: The fires have sent heavy smoke and ash drifting over Moscow and other cities. Cooler air brought some relief in places today.

A major wildfire also raged in California today in the hills north of

Los Angeles. It stretched across 12-and-a-half square miles. Firefighters focused on protecting a cluster of power transmission lines that provide electricity to much of Southern California. Some 2,000 people were forced from their homes on Thursday, but most of them returned today.

The U.S. Consulate in Juarez, Mexico has closed, as drug violence there rages. Three months ago, drug gangs killed three people linked to the

consulate. Last night, the U.S. Embassy warned Americans to avoid the area, pending a security review. There was no word how long that will take.

Separately, Mexican soldiers killed a reputed drug lord, Ignacio “Nacho” Coronel. U.S. officials called it a crippling blow to the powerful Sinaloa cartel.

Wall Street seesawed for much of the day on the latest economic data. In the end, the market finished with little change. The Dow Jones industrial average lost one point to close below 10466. The Nasdaq rose three points to close at 2254. For the month, both the Dow and the Nasdaq were up 7 percent, their best showing in the last year.

Those are some of the day’s major stories — now back to Judy.