In first Oval Office speech Obama calls for independent oil spill claims fund
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 â€œbattle planâ€ 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 â€œwrenching anxiety that their way of life may be lost.â€
â€œI 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 companyâ€™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.â€
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 â€œtackle our addiction to fossil fuels.â€
â€œLast year, the House of Representatives acted on these principles by passing a strong and comprehensive energy and climate bill â€“ a bill that finally makes clean energy the profitable kind of energy for Americaâ€™s businesses. Now, there are costs associated with this transition. And some believe we canâ€™t afford those costs right now. I say we canâ€™t afford not to change how we produce and use energy â€“ because the long-term costs to our economy, our national security, and our environment are far greater.â€
In a statement, Tampa-area member of Congress Kathy Castor wrote â€œAll Americans must commit to a new clean-energy economy â€“ one that holds great promise for jobs and cost savings in the Sunshine State.â€ Floridaâ€™s Democratic U.S. Senator Bill Nelson agrees with Obama that BP should be held financially responsible.
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â€œI 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? Thatâ€™s why we need a trust fund, separate, operated by an independent group that can pay those claims. I donâ€™t think BPâ€™s going broke, but from the experience we had with Exxon Valdez, claims were not paid in a timely fashion.â€