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Friday, May 14, 2010

Obama Blasts BP Execs On Oil Spill Response & Clean-Up

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Obama Slams Oil Companies Over Spill Response & Clean-Up

President Barack Obama on Friday angrily decried the "ridiculous spectacle" of oil industry officials pointing fingers of blame for the catastrophic spill in the Gulf of Mexico and said the accident could bring devastation to the region and its economy.

The president also pledged to end a "cozy relationship" between the oil industry and federal regulators that he said had existed for years and into his own administration.

On Tuesday, executives of the three companies involved in the disaster — BP, Transocean and Halliburton — testified before senators and were quick to lay blame elsewhere.

In their opening statements, the executives said it was too early to draw conclusions but then explained what they thought went wrong and who was responsible.

As Obama spoke in the White House Rose Garden, undersea robots in the Gulf tried to thread a small tube into the jagged pipe that is spewing oil into the water. The blown-out well has pumped out more than 4 million gallons of crude.

BP engineers were trying to move the 6-inch tube into the leaking 21-inch pipe, known as a riser. The smaller tube was to be surrounded by a stopper to keep oil from leaking into the sea. BP said it hoped to know by Friday evening if the tube succeeded in taking the oil to a tanker at the surface.

Obama said he shared the "anger and frustration" felt by many Americans, and he acknowledged differing estimates over how much oil was leaking.

"We know there's a level of uncertainty," Obama said. He said the administration's response has "always been geared toward the possibility of a catastrophic event."

Trying to stop the flow

Since the April 20 drilling rig explosion set off the catastrophic spill, BP PLC has tried several ideas to plug the leak that is spewing at least 210,000 gallons of oil into the Gulf a day. The size of the undulating spill was about 3,650 square miles, said Hans Graber, director of the University of Miami's Center for Southeastern Tropical Advanced Remote Sensing.

In the fateful hours before the Deepwater Horizon exploded about 50 miles off the Louisiana shore, a safety test was supposedly performed to detect if explosive gas was leaking from the mile-deep well.

While some data were being transmitted to shore for safekeeping right up until the blast, officials from Transocean, the rig owner, told Congress that the last seven hours of its information are missing and that all written logs were lost in the explosion. Earlier tests that suggested explosive gas was leaking were preserved.

BP facing big bill

Oil has been gushing from the well for three weeks at the rate of 5,000 barrels (210,000 gallons) per day, threatening to eclipse the 1989 Exxon Valdez disaster as the biggest U.S. oil spill, and possibly the worst environmental disaster in U.S. history.

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

While the spill threatened coastlines, local businesses and animal habitats, it also created complications for Obama's energy policy.

Two lawmakers introduced legislation this week in the U.S. Senate to fight climate change and expand production of renewable fuels, but the spill has dampened the public appetite for an expansion of offshore drilling -- a component originally designed to encourage Republican support.

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Outside of Washington communities that could be affected by the spill wondered when oil would show up on their shores.

Federal authorities said more than 520 vessels were responding to assist in containment and cleanup efforts in addition to dozens of aircraft and remotely operated vehicles.

A U.S. Senate committee approved $68 million to speed assistance to people affected by the massive oil spill, part of a request by the Obama administration to address the crisis.

Sources: BP, CNN, MSNBC, Wikipedia

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