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Gulf spill: What they're telling us

A daily recap of significant events and quotes on the nation's worst oil disaster.
/ Source: NBC, and news services

A summary of notable events for Tuesday, June 15, Day 57 of the Gulf of Mexico oil spill. 

After touring Florida’s Pensacola beach, President Barack Obama delivered a prime-time Oval Office speech on the Gulf spill, accusing BP of "recklessness" and vowing to make the oil giant pay for the damage. He also said the spill shows the need for America to embrace energy independence and cleaner technologies.

A team of scientists significantly increases its estimate of how much oil is gushing into the Gulf. The team says the "most likely flow rate of oil today" ranges from 35,000 to 60,000 barrels per day. It is the fourth — and perhaps not last — time the federal government has had to increase its estimate of how much oil is gushing. Read story.

A new Associated Press-Gfk poll finds 52 percent of Americans disapprove of how Obama has handled the spill — a significant increase from last month when a big chunk of Americans withheld judgment. But Obama's overall job performance rating didn't take a hit; it stayed virtually the same at 50 percent.

Members of Congress accuse the four other big oil firms of being no better prepared than BP to avert an environmental catastrophe.  As the executives from ExxonMobil, ConocoPhillips, Chevron and Shell testified at a House hearing, Rep. Henry Waxman, D-Calif., asserted that the companies' spill response plans amounted to "paper exercises" that mirrored BP's failed plan. Rep. Ed Markey, D-Mass., said three of the companies' plans — including one by BP — even "list a phone number for the same long-dead expert."

LIGHTNING STRIKES TWICE? A bolt of lightning strikes the ship capturing oil from the blown-out well, igniting a fire that temporarily halts containment efforts. The fire is quickly extinguished and no one is injured.

CHECK IS IN THE MAILBP announces accelerated payments of large loss claims by businesses. The company says it has approved 337 checks for a total amount of $16 million to businesses that have filed damage claims in excess of $5,000.

BP has rolled out a new television spot in what is to be a series of ads that many see as a bid to improve the company's public image. The new ad features featuring Darryl Willis, head of BP's claims department, naming some of the business owners in the Gulf Coast who are in need of BP's help, The Houston Chronicle reports. Willis says: "We've got to make this right" and adds part of BP's responsibility is to let people know what the company is doing. At the end, Willis mentions his ties to the Gulf Coast and ends again with the "make it right" message.

POWER TO THE PEOPLEBy today, if all the oil from the Deepwater Horizon spill had been used for fuel, it would have produced enough gasoline powered 68,000 cars for a full year, according to University of Delaware Professor James J. Corbett, who . That's based on the average estimated spill rate of 30,000 barrels of oil per day — before the new estimated flow rates were released.

"We would not have drilled the well in that way. "
James Mulva, CEO of ConocoPhillips, testifying at a congressional hearing on the BP disaster.

"For the consumer, it's going to be harder and harder for people to afford to buy it, especially in this economy. "
Hal Ambos of Ambos Seafoods, an importer, exporter and wholesale distributor in Savannah, Ga., on higher prices for Gulf shrimp due to the spill.