WASHINGTON (ABC)-- The Coast Guard says twenty tar balls, from the size of tennis balls to the size of softballs, have been found off Key West, Florida. But tests are needed to confirm they came from the Gulf oil spill. Environmentalists trying to stop oil drilling in the Gulf of Mexico filed federal lawsuits to shut down a major BP platform and to close a government loophole for new oil and gas exploration. Administration officials tell ABC News that President Obama will sign an executive order to establish a presidential commission to investigate the Gulf oil spill.
BP is now managing to capture about 20% of the oil gushing from the main pipe. It's a small victory but they'll take it.
This weekend, underwater robots finally managed to stick a narrow four inch tube into that much larger 21 inch pipe spewing oil into the Gulf. The tube siphons about 1000 barrels of oil a day up a mile-long pipe to a ship on the surface. BP thinks this method may eventually capture up to 80 percent of the oil.
That four inch pipe has been surrounded with a series of rubber stoppers designed to create a seal. Still, plenty of skeptics remain.
Some environmentalists say they don't think it's realistic that they're going to get a significant fraction of the leak into the containment vessel.
Despite predictions that the oil would hit shore weeks ago, 92% of the gulf remains open to fishing and tourism So, how much oil is really in the water? There have been reports of what are being called plumes of oil deep in the ocean some as big as Manhattan.
Dr. Vernon Asper, a Marine Sciences Professor from the University of Southern Mississippi says, "It looks totally clear to the eye. The amount of oil in that plume layer is probably the density, the concentration, it's probably pretty low. We'll know more once we analyze these samples."
President Obama has ordered a special commission to investigate the spill. Meantime, there will be three separate hearings on the spill later Tuesday on Capitol Hill.