“We continue to hold BP and other responsible parties fully accountable for the damage they have done and the painful losses that they have caused,” said United States President Barack Obama, speaking on the occasion of the first anniversary of the Gulf of Mexico oil spill.
When the Deepwater Horizon oil rig operated by BP exploded on April 20 last year, it killed 11 men and released an estimated 4.9 million barrels of oil into the Gulf, making it the worst spill in U.S. history and an environmental catastrophe of unprecedented magnitude.
In a statement on Tuesday Mr. Obama said that the “catastrophic event” had deeply affected the lives of millions of Americans, from local fishermen to restaurant and hotel owners and small businesses throughout the region. He reiterated that from the beginning, his administration had sought to bring every available resource to bear, “amassing the largest oil spill response in our nation’s history.” Yet, he added, while significant progress had been made, “The job is not done.”
In an earlier interview with The Hindu, Kenneth Feinberg, Mr. Obama’s “pay czar” charged with disbursing compensation to the Gulf spill victims out of a $20 billion fund set up by BP, said that BP as the “wrongdoer” had to step up and “pay the freight” of the compensation programme. Mr. Feinberg added that although $3.6 billion had already been disbursed to over 200,000 claiimants, the emotional side of the disaster should not be disregarded, in particular the fact that many individuals, families and businesses had seen their livelihoods wiped out.
Providing an update on the recovery efforts a year later, Mr. Obama said that nearly 2,000 responders were still actively working in the Gulf and the disaster response team was “monitoring seafood to ensure its continued safety and implementing aggressive new reforms for offshore oil production in the Gulf so that we can safely and responsibly expand development of our own energy resources.”
Arguing that his administration would continue to keep “a watchful eye” on the continuing work required to ensure that the Gulf Coast recovers “stronger than before,” Mr. Obama added that Lisa Jackson, Administrator of the Environmental Protection Agency was leading a task force to coordinate the long-term restoration effort based on input from local scientists, experts, and citizens.