Oil spill: speed up claims process, monitoring manatees

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The man overseeing a $20 billion claims fund set up by oil company BP said he wants the payment process accelerated and its transparency increased.

"We've got to get the claims out quicker, we've got to get them out with more transparency so claimants understand the status of their claim, and we've got to ease the burden on these folks in the Gulf," Kenneth Feinberg told CNN.

BP said in a statement Monday that costs from the disaster now total about $2 billion, including the cost of the response, containment, relief-well drilling, grants to Gulf states, claims paid and federal costs.

To date, more than 65,000 claims have been submitted and more than 32,000 payments totaling more than $105 million have been made, the company said.

On Monday, New Orleans mayor Mitch Landrieu will host more than a dozen mayors from Gulf states. While tourism in his city remains strong, Landrieu said, much depends on the coastal situation, and if the problem isn't fixed, the economy will suffer, CNN reported.

"The catastrophic nature [of the oil disaster], I still believe, is not fully known to us," Landrieu said. "It's really huge. There is no quick fix here and I think people need to kind of get focused on that fact."

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In other news, The New York Times is reporting that a team of researchers in Florida is monitoring manatees for signs that they are being affected by the oil spill.

Until recently, biologists believed manatees rarely ventured west of peninsular Florida, where, so far, no oil has appeared. But in 2007, researchers documented a summer migration of manatees to Mobile Bay, Ala. - leading them directly into and through the path of the oil from the Deepwater Horizon leak.

From two dozen to as many as 100 come to Mobile Bay for the summer, out of a total North American population of 5,000, the article said.

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