[Updated at 10:01 p.m. ET] It's Day 51 of the oil disaster in the Gulf of Mexico. Here are the latest developments on the oil disaster, which unfolded after the oil rig Deepwater Horizon exploded on April 20:
- Interior Secretary Ken Salazar defended the Obama administration's six-month moratorium on deepwater drilling, which has come under fire from critics who argue that the drilling is vital for reducing the dependence on foreign oil.
- Federal agencies responsible for monitoring the toll to wildlife reported Wednesday that 442 oiled birds have been collected alive; 633 were dead. The report said 50 sea turtles have been collected alive; 272 were dead.
- Government scientists estimate that the spill's flow rate after last week's cut of the well's riser pipe increased by 4 to 5 percent. That's well below an increase of as much as 20 percent that administration officials had indicated could happen.
- States are tracking the disaster's health impact, including respiratory and skin irritation problems in Louisiana and Alabama, health officials said.
- BP Chief Operating Officer Doug Suttles denied Wednesday that BP has ordered cleanup workers not to talk to reporters.
- Federal authorities gave BP until Friday to come up with a contingency plan for collecting gushing oil. In a letter written Tuesday to BP Chief Operating Officer Doug Suttles, the government instructed the company to submit redundancy plans in the event of operation failures or severe weather that could disrupt the continuous recovery of oil.
- BP said Wednesday that it has collected about 57,500 barrels (2.4 million gallons) of oil since it placed a containment cap on its ruptured well.
- A second ship, the Massachusetts, started transferring crude oil Wednesday from the Discoverer Enterprise, which has been collecting the oil pumped up from the well cap, BP said.
- Coast Guard Adm. Thad Allen said Wednesday that slightly more than 15,000 barrels of oil - more than 630,000 gallons - were recovered from the ruptured well in the Gulf of Mexico in the 24-hour period ending Tuesday at midnight. A BP spokesman placed the total figure at 15,006 barrels.
- In addition to the letter to Suttles, Allen wrote to BP Chief Executive Officer Tony Hayward asking for the development of better redundancies in the company's short- and long-term containment plans.
-The letter to Hayward also highlights concerns over BP's ability to effectively process damage claims associated with the Gulf disaster.
- BP provided more insight into its claims process Tuesday, saying that as of Monday, it has paid nearly $49 million to individuals and businesses affected by the spill. The company also said it expects to issue a second round of payments this month to cover anticipated lost income or profits, bringing the total it has paid to about $84 million.
- Alabama Gov. Bob Riley said Tuesday that he was frustrated with BP's reimbursement process, announcing that he will send National Guard troops and emergency management workers into affected communities to help residents with the preparation of claims forms.
- The oil disaster took center stage on Capitol Hill on Wednesday as House and Senate panels tackled issues ranging from safety to cleanup to liability.
- President Obama will make another visit to the Gulf Coast next week to review efforts to contain and clean up the worst oil spill in U.S. history, the White House announced Tuesday.
- BP's Hayward has been asked to appear at a hearing June 17 before the House Subcommittee on Oversight and Investigations.
- Norway has suspended issuing deepwater drilling licenses until it has more information on the BP oil disaster, according to the Ministry of Petroleum and Energy.
- Advocacy groups are planning a nationwide vigil for later this month. Hands Across the Sand and Sierra Club leaders announced Wednesday a "National Day of Action" for June 26. The groups said it could be "the largest gathering ever of Americans against offshore drilling."
- In a letter to rig owner Transocean released Tuesday, Rep. Nick Rahall, chairman of the House Natural Resources Committee, raised concerns about staffing shortages aboard the Deepwater Horizon rig on the day of the explosion, citing daily drilling reports provided by the company. Rahall, D-West Virginia, requested additional information in the letter.
- Top congressional Democrats renewed their push Wednesday for legislation that would remove all oil spill liability caps - a move some Republicans warn will lead to stronger monopolies in the energy sector while increasing U.S. dependence on foreign oil sources. "If you or I ... got into an accident that we caused, [we'd be] responsible for all the damages," said Sen. Barbara Boxer, D-California, chairwoman of the Environment and Public Works Committee. "There would be "no caps in that case, and there should be no caps in this case."