In first Oval Office speech Obama calls for independent oil spill claims fund

06/16/10 Seán Kinane
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In his first prime-time address from the Oval Office, President Barack Obama attempted to reassure the American people about the Gulf of Mexico oil disaster. In his 17-minute speech, Obama referred to what he called the “battle plan” to cap the gusher, clean up the environment, and help put Gulf residents back to work. But because of the BP oil disaster, Obama says many people in Louisiana, Mississippi, Alabama and Florida face a “wrenching anxiety that their way of life may be lost.”

“I refuse to let that happen. Tomorrow, I will meet with the chairman of BP and inform him that he is to set aside whatever resources are required to compensate the workers and business owners who have been harmed as a result of his company’s recklessness. And this fund will not be controlled by BP. In order to ensure that all legitimate claims are paid out in a fair and timely manner, the account must and will be administered by an independent, third party.”

Obama says the oil disaster led him to bring in new leadership, Michael Bromwich, at the Minerals Management Service. He also pressed the U.S. Senate to pass a climate and energy bill to “tackle our addiction to fossil fuels.”

“Last year, the House of Representatives acted on these principles by passing a strong and comprehensive energy and climate bill – a bill that finally makes clean energy the profitable kind of energy for America’s businesses. Now, there are costs associated with this transition. And some believe we can’t afford those costs right now. I say we can’t afford not to change how we produce and use energy – because the long-term costs to our economy, our national security, and our environment are far greater.”

In a statement, Tampa-area member of Congress Kathy Castor wrote “All Americans must commit to a new clean-energy economy – one that holds great promise for jobs and cost savings in the Sunshine State.” Florida’s Democratic U.S. Senator Bill Nelson agrees with Obama that BP should be held financially responsible.

“I think we have to have a trust fund set up by BP money that is run by an independent group, so that the claims will get paid. What about the fishermen and the hotels and the oystermen? What about all the tourism activities? That’s why we need a trust fund, separate, operated by an independent group that can pay those claims. I don’t think BP’s going broke, but from the experience we had with Exxon Valdez, claims were not paid in a timely fashion.”

Full text of Obama's speech

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BP Oil Leak & President Obama

In reference to the oil leak, what exactly is our federal government supposed to do? The problem is not in fixing it, it was in allowing the oil industry for years to flaunt rules and common sense. The cutoff that failed, for example, is the same one that failed in the massive leak in 1979 in the gulf near Mexico (haven't seen that in the papers, have you?) ( You've got Pat Campbell and a huge brain trust of experts there working on this for quite some time. What, you want politicians down there running around mucking this up just like the BP execs did that day by getting in the way of the real workers that know their job? Bobby Jindal and his predecessors in Louisiana, Alabama and Texas have fought the feds tooth and nail to protect the oil industry, while collecting millions in oil royalties for their state coffers. Also, they have been the loudest shouting "states rights", "keep the feds out of state issues", etc. Yet, as soon as something happens, they start crying for the federal government to use tax dollars from every state to pay for their mess. Why didn't they demand the oil companies set up a trained disaster recovery team to be on standby? Why didn't Jindal and his cohorts buy some equipment out of those oil dollars and train their National Guard to use it? Why should they expect the feds to set up a Maytag Repairman team to sit around for years waiting for one screwup to go into action? Simple answer is that they want to keep all that oil money while expecting the feds to spend everyone else's dollars. In reality, this is not a governmental issue, other than to stay on their backs to make sure they fix this. Governments have no expertise or business in doing anything about this any more than they would have in the recent coal mine disaster, flash floods, etc. The difference is that people in West Virginia know how to pick themselves up and fix their own mess; while these coastal states rail against Big Guvmt until they screw up something; then whine and cry and blame Big Guvmt for not bailing their greedy butts out. Did you know Jindal, et al are already bitching and moaning that the temporary halt to gulf drilling has to be stopped; because it's hurting the oil industry (,0,1006508.story)? People want to bitch about the President, pick a topic that justifies it. There are a few out there; but this ain't one.

a tepid plea for unspecified change