By Dan Robinson for VOA News at The White House — President Barack Obama Obama has met with Cabinet and other officials dealing with the massive oil spill in the Gulf of Mexico. The president says it is clear there will be substantial ongoing economic effects from the spill.
The president spoke after meeting with Cabinet and other officials directly involved in the response to the worst environmental disaster in U.S. history.
If containment efforts are successful, he said, it will take at least two more months for relief wells to be completed. Even after that, the president said Americans should be prepared for a substantial and ongoing economic impact.
“This will be contained. It may take some time and it is going to take a whole lot of effort,” he said “There is going to be damage done to the Gulf coast, and there is going to be economic damage that we have got to make sure BP is responsible for and compensates people for,” said the president.
Among those taking part in the meeting was U.S. Coast Guard Admiral Thad Allen, who is in command of the overall government response.
While BP is managing to siphon an increasing amount of oil using a containment cap on the damaged well, Admiral Allen said the spill has broken into numerous separate patches on the surface.
This he says presents cleanup crews with an enormous task as they deal with what he calls an “enemy that changes,” and an impact on wetland areas as part of long-term environmental effects that will be felt for years.
“I think we need to be realistic and honest and transparent with the American people,” said Allen. “When the relief well is finished and it is capped, sometime in August, oil will have flowed to the surface in some manner because we probably will not get 100-percent containment, we want as much as we can get, so there will still be oil on the surface the day the well is capped,” he added.
Admiral Allen said oil being captured from the damaged undersea well each day is approaching 15,000 barrels, though experts have still not established an exact rate of flow. He says it is “critical” to increase the capacity of skimming operations to remove oil on the surface.
Admiral Allen said the government needs to continue keeping a close eye on BP operations in the course of what he says will be a long campaign against the spill.
“We ought to be ruthless in our oversight of BP and try and understand what oil is not being contained, is leaking out around that rubber seal, once we know what that flow rate is,” he said. “And we need to understand completely that if we have severe weather in the form of a hurricane, there may be times when we are going to have to disconnect that operation and re-establish it and during that time we are going to have oil coming to the surface again,” said Admiral Allen.
President Obama repeated what he said while visiting the Gulf last week, saying he does not want to see BP “nickel and diming” people and businesses applying for compensation.
He expressed confidence in the ability of the Gulf Coast and its people to recover in the long-run.
“We are confident that not only are we going to be able to get past this immediate crisis, but we are going to be focusing our attention on making sure the coast fully recovers and that eventually it comes back even stronger than it was before this crisis,” said President Obama.
The Gulf oil disaster is the subject of several House and Senate hearings this week. Among other things, lawmakers are working to increase the liability limit in U.S. law, currently set at $75 million.
At one of those hearings, held in Louisiana on Monday, Massachusetts Democratic Congressman Ed Markey said legislation he is introducing would require oil companies to fund development of improved safety and cleanup tools to deal with similar future disasters.