U.S. President Barack Obama this weekend reiterated his determination to get BP to pay for the damage caused by the oil spill from their Deepwater Horizon offshore rig, including a preliminary bill of $69 million for the costs of the response thus far. After speaking at Grand Isle, Louisiana, to local residents and small business owners about the hardships that they were facing, he underscored his commitment to helping them recover and rebuild.
Mr. Obama also sought to deflect criticism that his administration had failed to respond rapidly enough to the crisis, arguing “… from the beginning, we have mobilised on every front to contain and clean up this spill. I have authorised the deployment of 17,500 National Guard troops to aid in the response. More than 20,000 people are currently working around the clock to protect waters and coastlines.”
He added that his government had also convened hundreds of top scientists and engineers from around the world, that more than 1,900 vessels were in the Gulf assisting in the clean up, and more than 4.3 million feet of boom had been deployed with another 2.9 million feet of boom available.
His comments came even as BP announced that oil and gas was being received on board the Discoverer Enterprise drill ship at surface level, following the successful placement of a containment cap on top of the rig's failed blow-out preventer (BOP). BP also issued caveats regarding the success of this operation. The company said, “It is expected to take one or more days for flow rates of oil and gas to stabilise and it is not possible at this stage to estimate how much oil and gas will be captured by this containment system.”
It added that a complex operation such as this one entailed the use of remotely operated vehicles at 5,000 feet under water and the containment cap had never before been deployed at this depth. Thus the “containment system's efficiency, continued operation, and ability to contain the oil and gas cannot be assured,” BP warned.
However, in another statement to shareholders issued on Friday, BP's Chairman Carl-Henric Svanberg and Chief Executive Tony Hayward said that the company's response to the Gulf of Mexico oil spill was their “top priority,” along with rebuilding trust and confidence in BP and “ensuring that such an accident never happens again.” A press release said that both Mr. Svanberg and Mr. Hayward expressed their deep regret and sorrow for the tragedy.
The Obama administration has nevertheless sought to keep up the pressure on the oil major, with the President noting over the weekend that he had “… ordered BP to pay economic injury claims, and we will make sure they pay every single dime owed to the people along the Gulf Coast.” He said that in addition, after an emergency safety review, his administration would be putting in place “aggressive new operating standards for offshore drilling.”
In that context he emphasised the key role of the bipartisan commission that he had appointed last month to look into the causes of this spill. Mr. Obama said, “If laws are inadequate – laws will be changed. If oversight was lacking – it will be strengthened. And if laws were broken – those responsible will be brought to justice.”