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BP to finish relief well, U.S. spill official says

HOUSTON - BP Plc will proceed with a relief well to kill its blown-out Gulf of Mexico well, the top U.S. spill official said Friday.

"Everybody is in agreement that we need to proceed with the relief well," retired Coast Guard Adm. Thad Allen said. "The question is how to do it."

The decision to continue with the relief well came as Alabama announced it was suing BP for the "catastrophic harm" that the spill had caused the state.

Earlier this week Allen had raised the possibility that the relief well might not be needed because the cement poured into the top of the blown Macondo well last week - the "static kill" - might have permanently killed it.

But after running pressure tests, BP and U.S. officials agree that the relief well is needed to plug the well 13,000 feet beneath the seabed, Allen said. The relief well is only about 45 feet from reaching the Macondo well.

"The relief well will be finished," Allen said. "We will kill the well."

The Macondo well, a mile down in the Gulf of Mexico, blew out April 20 and began spewing oil in what has become the worst offshore oil spill in history. The well was provisionally capped on July 15.

The British energy giant has lost more than a third of its market value since the explosion and has set aside $32.2 billion to deal with clean-up costs.

BP faces hundreds of civil lawsuits from injured rig workers, fishermen, investors and property owners seeking to recoup losses. Meanwhile, Alabama has become the first state to sue BP, Transocean, Halliburton, Anadarko Petroleum Corp. and others for what state Attorney General Troy King said was "catastrophic harm."

Transocean owned the drilling rig that was hired by BP. Halliburton provided the cement work for the well while Anadarko was a minority owner.

"We are suing them for the amount it will take to make Alabama whole," King said Friday. The suit, which did not set a damage figure, accuses the defendants of "negligent or wanton failure to adhere to recognized industry standards of care."

The spill has hurt fishing and tourism around the Gulf and has affected other sectors such as housing. People and businesses that have sustained losses can make claims against the BP compensation fund administered by Kenneth Feinberg, named by the White House as an independent overseer. But King also said Feinberg was undermining efforts by Gulf states' attorneys general to make it possible for spill victims to claim damages from the fund while retaining the right to sue BP at a future date.

Alabama Gov. Bob Riley, however, said he opposed the lawsuit on the grounds that it was premature to sue BP before it has a chance to pay claims, especially given that the company has admitted it is responsible.

BP had no immediate comment, a company spokeswoman said.

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