Obama accuses BP of recklessness in Oval Office address
(AP) - Dedicating new urgency to the Gulf oil spill, President Barack Obama accused BP of "recklessness" in the first Oval Office address of his presidency Tuesday night and swore not to rest until the company has paid for the damage it has caused tolives, businesses and shorelines.
He announced that he had asked former Mississippi Gov. Ray Mabusto develop a long-term Gulf Coast Restoration Plan - to be fundedby BP PLC - in concert with local states, communities, fishermen,conservationists and residents "as soon as possible."
Obama did not detail what this plan should include or how muchit might cost, a price sure to be in the billions of dollars.
Whatever the bottom line, he declared to his prime-timetelevision audience, "We will make BP pay."
Still, eight weeks into the crisis, oil continues to gush fromthe broken wellhead, millions of gallons a day, and Obama has beenpowerless to stem the leak. The sad episode has raised doubts abouthis leadership and his administration's response to what Obama hascalled the nation's worst environmental disaster.
A new Associated Press-GfK poll shows for the first time amajority of Americans disapproving of his handling of thesituation.
A government panel of scientists said earlier Tuesday that theundersea well is leaking even more oil than previously thought, asmuch as 2.52 million gallons a day - or enough to fill the OvalOffice more than 22 times. The total spilled so far could be asmuch as 116 million gallons.
BP has had only modest success so far in stemming the flood ofoil, but Obama said that within weeks "these efforts shouldcapture up to 90 percent of the oil leaking out of the well."Later in the summer, he said, the company should finish drilling arelief well to stop the leak completely.
Much of the president's speech was devoted to a recitation ofsteps his administration has already taken - "from the verybeginning," he said - to clean the oil, help the distraught peopleof the Gulf and prevent another environmental crisis.
"We will fight this spill with everything we've got for as longit takes," Obama said.
Likening that process to a long epidemic instead of a singlecrushing disaster like an earthquake or hurricane, he said thenation could be tied up with the oil and its aftermath for months"and even years."
Looking ahead to his showdown Wednesday morning with BPexecutives, Obama said he would "inform" them that the companymust set aside whatever resources are required to make whole alllocal residents and businesses hurt by the spill and to repair theimmense ecological damage wrought by the oil.
That meeting was to be followed by a presidential statement -his fourth planned remarks on the spill in three days. Later in theweek, BP leaders take the Washington hot seat again, appearingbefore more congressional hearings.
However, Obama said that the new Gulf restoration plan would gobeyond just repairing the effects of the crude on a unique, teemingecology that was already battered by the 2005 hurricanes Katrinaand Rita.
"We must make a commitment to the Gulf Coast that goes beyondresponding to the crisis of the moment," the president said.
Obama also urged the nation and Congress to get behind his goalof passing sweeping energy and climate change legislation, a keydomestic priority of his presidency that had become a long shot.Though Obama supports placing a price on heat-trapping carbonemissions, he did not directly state that.
"The tragedy unfolding on our coast is the most painful andpowerful reminder yet that the time to embrace a clean energyfuture is now," he said. "I say we can't afford not to change howwe produce and use energy - because the long-term costs to oureconomy, our national security, and our environment are fargreater."