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The chief of the Independent Claims Facility — the newly created office charged with distributing $20 billion in compensation from BP — said a plan to handle the remaining damage claims will be in place in 30 to 45 days. Kenneth Feinberg said he hopes to have a program going forward that would provide payment within 30 to 60 days of someone submitting a new claim.

Those pledges don’t mean much to Jerry Forte, who filed a business claim with BP more than a month ago and hasn’t seen a dime. His seafood processing business on the docks in Pass Christian, Miss., used to bring in more than $1 million a year but now is practically shuttered.

“I’m 99 percent down. They took all the shrimp boats. I don’t have anybody shrimping,” Forte said Friday. “My bank accounts are all going down to nothing because we’re spending it all on bills, just waiting on BP.”

The slow claims process is just one of many criticisms lawmakers and the public have had with BP’s response to the spill — and many of the toughest complaints have been directed at Hayward.

Rep. Bart Stupak, D-Mich., said the CEO’s “evasive and obstructive” responses during Thursday’s congressional testimony further damaged BP’s reputation.

“Whether this change in Gulf leadership for BP will be productive remains to be seen,” Stupak said in a statement. “I expect that Mr. Dudley will take a much more cooperative and open approach to answering our questions and responding to the needs of the Gulf region. If not, his tenure will likely be as short lived as Mr. Hayward’s.”

The recent oil containment efforts are a rare bit of good news for BP and suggest that its engineers are getting better at trapping oil after a two-month string of failures with equipment that clogged, proved ineffective or was simply abandoned.

“This is a significant improvement moving forward,” said Adm. Allen, the top federal official in charge of the spill.

But there’s still much that can go wrong, from strained hoses breaking to ships colliding in the crowded seas over the leak. A bolt of lightning that hit a drill ship this week started a fire and halted oil collection for hours.

Stopping the leak will require a pair of relief wells that are not expected to be ready until August, although drilling has gone faster than expected.

“Certainly stopping it is the first step and the important thing anyone can do,” said Ed Overton, a professor of environmental studies at Louisiana State University. “Mother Nature can handle a lot of insult. It’s just when you pile it and pile it and pile it.”

Even if the new containment systems are a success, it could take months for those living along the Gulf Coast to notice any improvement. Experts say oil could be washing up for another six months, and it may take years for wildlife populations harmed by the spill to rebound to levels seen before the leak.

To collect oil, BP now has a containment cap sitting over a well bore that is siphoning oil and gas to a drill ship on the ocean surface. Separate lines are pulling oil and gas from beneath a stack of pipes above the seafloor to a drilling rig where the flow is burned. Engineers have been working since Wednesday to bring that system to full speed.

The ability to contain oil should grow as BP and the federal government move toward getting oil-trapping equipment in place that could better withstand Gulf hurricanes. In addition, BP wants to take off the existing cap in July and replace it with one of three possible designs that would offer a tighter seal and siphon oil to two ships waiting above.

Cutting back on the flow would give cleanup crews some breathing room.

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