WRAPUP 2-Gulf Coast fears spreading slick, fishing ban widens

* Loop Current may carry oil to Florida Keys

* Worries of impact on Florida tourism

* BP shares slip one percent in London trading
(Adds slide in BP stock, paragraph 10)

By Michael Haskins

KEY WEST, Fla., May 19 (BestGrowthStock) – BP Plc (BP.L: ) forged
ahead on Wednesday with efforts to stem its leaking Gulf of
Mexico oil well, amid fears powerful currents were pushing the
slick toward prized U.S. tourist resorts and fisheries.

The London-based energy giant, which has seen its
reputation battered and market value cut by $30 billion due to
the disaster, said it planned to increase the amount of oil
captured from its blown well as it works on a permanent fix.
[ID:nLDE64H0EA]

A siphon tube inserted into the well was capturing an
estimated 2,000 barrels (84,000 gallons/318,000 liters) per day
from the ruptured undersea well, about 40 percent of the amount
that was gushing into the surrounding waters, BP said.

Its progress was being closely watched by the Obama
administration, which has taken a tough line on BP and other
companies involved in the spill, and Gulf Coast residents,
whose livelihood and way of life are threatened.
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TAKE A LOOK on the spill [ID:nSPILL]

INSIDER TV: http://link.reuters.com/wuw64k

Graphic: http://link.reuters.com/ken64k

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Environmentalists warn that the spill could prove worse
than the 1989 Exxon Valdez disaster off Alaska — the worst
such incident in U.S. history — and bring an ecological and
economic calamity to the Gulf region.

In a sign of the widening environmental impact, the United
States nearly doubled a no-fishing zone in waters seen affected
by the oil gushing from the blown well, extending it to 19
percent of U.S. waters in the Gulf. [ID:nN18155760]

And tests were being done on tar balls found on a Key West
island resort to see if they came from BP’s well, as Florida
braced for the spill’s potential impact on its $60
billion-a-year tourism industry.

Oil debris and tar balls have been reported in Louisiana,
Alabama and Mississippi. Protective booms are being used to try
to defend the shore.

“No one knows where the tar balls are from, but they
predict doom and gloom,” said Charlie Bauer, a resident of Key
West, the famed diving and fishing resort at the far southern
tip of Florida.

FOUR WEEKS LATER

BP has said it will cover the costs of the spill, which was
triggered by an April 20 rig explosion that killed 11 workers.
It estimated the bill for the oil cleanup at $625 million, with
analysts saying costs could reach into the billions.

BP’s shares slid about one percent in early London
trading.

Officials have stressed the accident’s so-far limited
impact on the region’s fisheries, coastal shorelines and
wildlife, but that has failed to calm residents who fear
extensive damage to local economies and communities.

Many experts believe oil may have already been caught up in
the powerful Loop Current curling around the Florida Peninsula,
which could take it into the Florida Keys and possibly up the
East Coast.

A Coast Guard helicopter and NOAA experts planned to scour
the area for signs of additional pollution.

Florida Democrat Senator Bill Nelson released a forecast by
University of South Florida College of Marine Science experts
who said part of the oil slick may reach the Keys in five to
six days, and possibly Miami five days after that.

“While I always hope for the best, this is looking like
really out-of-control bad,” Nelson said in a statement before
another round of congressional hearings on Tuesday.

Signaling the Obama administration’s hardline on BP,
Interior Secretary Ken Salazar told a Senate panel the
government was investigating the company’s Atlantis oil
production platform in the Gulf.

But President Barack Obama’s drive to lift corporate
liability limits for oil spills stalled in the U.S. Senate on
Tuesday.

Investing Advice

(Writing by Ed Stoddard; Editing by Paul Simao)

WRAPUP 2-Gulf Coast fears spreading slick, fishing ban widens