President Obama: Fed Gov’t in Charge of Efforts to Contain Oil Spill, Not BP

Jake Tapper, Karen Travers and Sunlen Miller, ABC News
In his most extensive remarks about the Gulf oil spill , President Obama pushed back today against critics who say his administration has been less than fully engaged in efforts to contain the damage and stressed that the federal government is in charge.

“Those who think that we were either slow on our response or lacked urgency don’t know the facts,” Obama told a news conference at the White House. “This has been our highest priority since this crisis occurred.”

Obama said that the oil spill was the first and last thing he thinks about every day and dismissed an opportunity to respond to comparisons to the Bush administration’s handling of Hurricane Katrina.

“I’ll leave it to you guys to make those comparisons and make judgments on it, because what I’m spending my time thinking about is, ‘How do we solve the problem?'” he said. “And I’m confident that people are going to look back and say that this administration was on top of what was an unprecedented crisis.”

Twice calling the spill “unprecedented,” Obama reiterated that BP is responsible for the “horrific disaster” and will be held fully accountable.

But after nearly an hour of engaging with reporters, Obama finally said bluntly that the buck stops with him.

“I take responsibility,” he said. “It is my job to make sure that everything is done to shut this down.”

Obama will travel to the Gulf region Friday, his second trip since the oil leak began.

…Obama announced today that planned oil exploration in that region and off the Atlantic Coast will be cancelled and a six-month moratorium will be placed on new, deepwater drilling permits.

…Obama announced he was canceling the August offshore drilling lease sale in the western Gulf of Mexico and the lease sale off the coast of Virginia.

Planned exploration off the coast of Alaska in the Chukchi and Beaufort seas is also being delayed pending the review of the presidential commission looking into the BP spill…
(27 May 2010)

BP and the Annals of the Tin Ear

Steve LeVine, The oil and the glory
Watching the daily verbal output from BP’s management, I think back to the editing of The Oil and the Glory. One task that my editor assumed was trimming back the profiles of certain U.S. and overseas foreign policy figures. “You’ve already got him down on the ground and kicked him in the gut,” he said on one occasion. “You don’t need to also kick him in the head and the ribs. The reader gets it.”

Is BP already that prone, jostled man on the ground? After all, this blog has already said this and this regarding the spectacle of the implosion of one of modern capitalism’s most-successful PR machines. Perhaps one should cut BP chairman Carl-Henric Svanberg cultural slack? After all, he is a Swede, with a background in telecoms, explaining a British oil company to Americans.

Yet, here is Svanberg — simultaneously head of BP, the world’s fourth-largest company, and CEO of Ericsson, another Fortune 500 company — speaking to Ed Crooks of the Financial Times, and making a blooper of a scale that in, say, the financial industry would end one’s career:

“The U.S. is a big and important market for BP, and BP is also a big and important company for the U.S., with its contribution to drilling and oil and gas production. So the position goes both ways.”

That sounded a bit to me like a schoolyard “mine is bigger than yours” taunt. But, as a cultural test — perhaps it’s just my American ear? — I checked with my wife. It turns out that Kazakhs have a similar schoolyard taunt. Svanberg is getting some much-deserved grief already over at the Huffington Post and the Spokesman-Review.

Not content with sharing the spotlight, BP CEO Tony Hayward continues to dig and dig. This 3-minute video of him shouting at cameramen on the beach is getting extensive airplay…
(26 May 2010)

‘Top kill’ method ‘slows BP oil leak’ in Gulf of Mexico

BBC News
BP has slowed the flow of oil and gas from a ruptured well into the Gulf of Mexico, a US official told local media.

The company’s “top kill” effort has “stabilised the wellhead”, Coast Guard commander Admiral Thad Allen said.

But he cautioned it was too early to declare success. This is the first step in BP’s plan to seal the well for good.

Meanwhile, a panel of US scientists said the oil leak was much worse than previously estimated, making it the nation’s worst spill.

US Geological Survey Director Marcia McNutt said BP ‘slows leaking Gulf oil well’ government teams estimated the flow ranges from 12,000 barrels (504,000 gallons or 1.9 million litres) to 25,000 barrels per day.

Up to now, BP had estimated the leak at 5,000 barrels (210,000 gallons) per day, while cautioning that figure was unreliable.

If the new estimates are confirmed, it would mean the leak has far eclipsed the previous worst oil spill in US history – the 1989 Exxon Valdez disaster.

…Hours before Mr Obama was due to speak, US officials announced the resignation of the head of the Minerals Management Service (MMS), the US agency which oversees drilling operations.

Elizabeth “Liz” Birnbaum, who had run the MMS since July 2009, has endured criticism in the weeks since the oil spill over alleged lax oversight of drilling and what President Obama has called an overly cozy relationship with industry.

…Adm Allen told US media the “top kill” procedure, which began on Wednesday, has pumped enough drilling fluid to block some of the oil and gas escaping from the well.

It was the first positive official assessment of BP’s latest attempt to plug the well, after previous efforts failed.

…The top kill attempt, which began on Wednesday, involves pumping heavy drilling fluids into the top of the well to try to halt the oil flow.

If it succeeds, cement would then be injected to seal the well…
(27 May 2010)

Setback Delays ‘Top Kill’ Effort to Seal Leaking Oil Well in Gulf

Clifford Kraus, John M. Broder, and Liz Robbins, New York Times
BP had to halt its ambitious effort to plug its stricken oil well in the Gulf of Mexico on Thursday afternoon when engineers saw that too much of the drilling fluid they were injecting into the well was escaping along with the leaking crude oil.

Ken Salazar, secretary of the interior, and David J. Hayes, right, the deputy secretary, attended a House hearing on Wednesday.

A technician at the BP command center said that pumping of the fluid had to be stopped temporarily while engineers were revising their plans, and that the company hoped to resume pumping by midnight, if federal officials approved.

The technician, who spoke on condition of anonymity because he was not authorized to brief reporters, said the problem was not seen as serious. “We’re still quite optimistic,” he said, but cautioned: “It is not assured and its not a done deal yet. All of this will require some time.”

Earlier in the day, officials had been encouraged that the heavy drilling fluid, known as mud, being pumped into the well appeared to be working. But the fluid had not yet overcome the upward pressure of the escaping oil and gas, according to Coast Guard commandant Adm. Thad W. Allen.

“They said this could take 24 to 36 hours, and they are in the process of monitoring it,” Admiral Allen said….
(26 May 2010)