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Americas

Obama slams 'ridiculous' oil firms, promises reforms

Text by News Wires

Latest update : 2010-05-14

US President Barack Obama has slammed the oil firms involved in the unchecked BP Deepwater oil spill in the Gulf of Mexico. He repeated that BP would pay for the clean-up and pledged to reform the federal agency overseeing offshore drilling.

REUTERS - U.S. President Barack Obama on Friday slammed the companies involved in a massive oil spill in the Gulf of Mexico for a “ridiculous spectacle” of publicly trading blame over the accident.

In comments after a meeting with his Cabinet to discuss efforts to stop the spill and minimize its impact on U.S. Gulf Coast communities, Obama said he was angry and frustrated about the spill, which threatens an ecological and economic disaster.

“I have to say, though, I did not appreciate what I considered to be a ridiculous spectacle during the congressional hearings into this matter. You had executives of BP and Transocean and Halliburton falling over each other to point the finger of blame at somebody else,” Obama said.

Obama was referring to testimony this week on Capitol Hill by leaders of the three companies involved in the disaster—energy giant BP, Halliburton and Transocean Ltd. None of the three took responsibility for the spill, and instead blamed one another.

“What really matters is this: there is oil leaking ... and we need to stop it as soon as possible,” he said.

“There’s enough responsibility to go round,” Obama added. “And all parties should be willing to accept it.”

Obama repeated a demand that BP must pay for the spill’s cleanup and other economic impact on the Gulf region but said the U.S. government would use “every available resource” to stop oil from coming ashore. He said he would not “rest or be satisfied” until the leak was stopped at its source.

The April 20 Deepwater Horizon rig explosion killed 11 workers and triggered what could eclipse the 1989 Exxon Valdez spill and become the worst environmental disaster in U.S.  history.

‘COZY RELATIONSHIP’

Obama also said he directed U.S. Interior Secretary Ken Salazar to undertake a “top-to-bottom” review of the Minerals Management Service, the federal agency that oversees offshore drilling. On Tuesday, Salazar announced that the agency will be split in order to separate the collection of oil royalties from safety inspection duties.

“For too long, for a decade or more, there’s been a cozy relationship between the oil companies and the federal agency that permits them to drill. It seems as if permits were too often issued based on little more than assurances of safety from the oil companies,” Obama said.

Earlier in the day, BP geared up for its latest effort to contain its offshore well leak as some scientists said the true amount of crude escaping could be much higher.

Scientific projections of how much oil has been spewing unchecked for three weeks from the ruptured undersea well has ranged wildly, from BP’s 5,000 (210,000 gallons/795,000 liters) to 100,000 barrels (4.2 million gallons/15.9 million liters) per day.

BP Chief Operating Officer Doug Suttles appeared on morning U.S. television shows defending the company’s efforts to stem the flow and its estimates that about 5,000 barrels of oil were escaping per day.

“I think that’s a good range,” Suttles said on CNN. “I don’t know the precise number, but I think it’s somewhere around that number.”

“We’re mounting the biggest response ever done and it’s not related to whether it’s 5,000 barrels per day or a different number,” he said on CBS.

Fisheries and tourism, two of the Gulf Coast’s economic mainstays, along with birds, sea turtles and other wildlife, are threatened by the spreading slick. The accident also could cripple attempts in Washington to overhaul U.S. energy policy.

BP, whose shares have tumbled and wiped out $30 billion of market value since the rig fire on April 20, has said the oil spill had cost it $450 million so far. BP shares dropped more than 3 percent in London.
 

Date created : 2010-05-14

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