Nightly News   |  September 19, 2010

‘Dead’: BP plugs Gulf oil well

Five long months after the BP oil disaster began, the federal government confirmed today that the oil company has permanently sealed the blown-out well. NBC’s Anne Thompson reports.

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LESTER HOLT, anchor: Gulf of Mexico . Five long months after the BP oil disaster began, the man in charge of the federal government's response today declared the blown-out oil well dead, sealed up once and for all. As for the recovery, President Obama said in a statement, "We will continue to work closely with the people of the gulf to rebuild their livelihoods and restore the environment that supports them." NBC 's chief environmental affairs correspondent Anne Thompson has been in Louisiana since this crisis began. She's with us again tonight. Anne , after all the predictions of a generations-long disaster, how bad has this really been for the environment?

ANNE THOMPSON reporting: Well, Lester , let's talk about what we know. We know that more than four million barrels of oil went into the gulf. Today we know that 40,000 square miles of the gulf, some 17 percent, remains closed to fishing. We know there is still oil in the marshes of Louisiana , there is oil in the subsea currents, and scientists are now finding oil on the gulf floor that they suspect, although they have not confirmed, comes from BP 's well. But what really has people concerned here is what we don't know, and that is the long-term impact on the marine life , the crabs, the shrimps, the oysters, the tuna, and that is going to take several years, several reproductive cycles to tell us exactly what has happened to the marine life in the gulf.

HOLT: And that gets us to the question of those who make their living in the gulf is huge.

THOMPSON: Mm-hmm.

HOLT: A claims fund was put together. How is the claim process going? Are people getting their money?

THOMPSON: Oh, they are most unhappy here in Louisiana and along the gulf. Claims czar Ken Feinberg has apparently overpromised and underdelivered on his vow to get the money to people fast. He realizes that. He says he's working on that. But I can tell you, talking to fishermen, they are very frustrated, so frustrated that they say BP actually did a better job with the claims process than Feinberg , and I can tell you that's not high praise.

HOLT: All right. NBC 's Anne Thompson in Louisiana tonight. Thank you.