As BP engineers continue to work on Tuesday to contain and eventually plug the deep sea oil spill in the Gulf of Mexico, scientists tracking the spread of oil disagreed on whether it had entered a powerful ocean current that could carry the crude as far east as Florida and potentially damage sensitive reefs in the Keys.
On Monday night, the Coast Guard reported that 20 tar balls were found along the shore at Fort Zachary Taylor State Park in Key West. Samples of the tar balls — found by park rangers and ranging in size from three to eight inches in diameter — will be sent to a laboratory for analysis, according to the Coast Guard.
In Washington, a top Interior official charged with overseeing oil and gas drilling resigned, and Homeland Security Secretary Janet Napolitano defended the administration's handling of the emergency at the same time she said it was largely dependent on BP to respond to the crisis.
Chris Oynes, who had overseen oil and gas leasing in the Gulf of Mexico for 12 years before being promoted to Mineral Management Services associate director for offshore energy and minerals management, sent a letter of resignation effective May 31. Oynes has come under fire for being too close to the industry officials he regulated.
Meanwhile, BP announced it was awarding tourism grants to the governors of Florida, Alabama, Mississippi and Louisiana to help promote tourism over the coming months, in the wake of the Deepwater Horizon spill.
BP said it would give $25 million to Florida and $15 million each to Alabama, Mississippi and Louisiana.
Florida Gov. Charlie Crist said he would use the funds "to spread the word that Florida's beaches are clean, our fish are biting, and the Sunshine State is open for business."
Doug Suttles, BP chief operating officer, said Monday that a mile-long tube inserted into a damaged well pipe on the sea floor was funneling a little more than 1,000 barrels -- or 42,000 gallons -- of oil, natural gas and water a day from the well into a drill ship at the surface.
BP will gradually increase the amount of oil siphoned from the leak to a potential maximum of about 2,000 barrels a day -- less than half the 5,000 barrels a day that the company and the U.S. Coast Guard estimate is leaking from the site.
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