Obama blasts oil execs, MMS over spill
President Obama on Friday criticized the "ridiculous" behavior of oil industry executives in the wake of the April 20 collapse of an offshore drilling rig and the resulting spill in the Gulf of Mexico.
But he also said a government agency's coziness with an industry it regulates contributed to the disaster.
"I did not appreciate what I considered to be a ridiculous spectacle during the congressional hearings into this matter," Obama said in Rose Garden remarks. "You had executives of BP and Transocean and Halliburton falling over each other to point the finger of blame at somebody else."
Flanked by members of his Cabinet and others on his crisis response team, Obama said the explosion and spill, which has not been contained, showed "that the system failed, and it failed badly. For that, there's enough responsibility to go around, and all parties should be willing to accept it." For the first time, he made it clear some of the blame fell on the Minerals Management Service.
"For a decade or more, there's been a cozy relationship between the oil companies and the federal agency that permits them to drill. It seems as if permits were too often issued based on little more than assurances of safety from the oil companies," he said.
Obama, stung by comparisons of the administration's response to the Bush administration's actions after 2005's Hurricane Katrina, urged Congress to move quickly to approve spill-related legislation that he sent up this week. The legislation would lift the cap on the amount of money that the federal government can draw from the Oil Spill Liability Trust Fund to respond to the spill and would provide unemployment payments and loans to small businesses affected by the accident. The legislation includes $118 million in new spending, most of which would be reimbursed by BP America.
Obama emphasized that he shares the anger and frustration of coastal state residents. "I'm not going to rest or be satisfied until the leak is stopped at the source, the oil in the Gulf is contained and cleaned up, and the people of the Gulf are able to go back to their lives and their livelihoods," he said.
Obama's curt words for MMS came as the White House Council on Environmental Quality and the Interior Department announced they will review the National Environmental Policy Act procedures at MMS. While working to help with cleanup efforts, "we are also aggressively and quickly investigating what happened and what can be done to prevent this type of incident in the future," Interior Secretary Ken Salazar said in a prepared statement.
Salazar will testify on Tuesday at a Senate Energy and Natural Resources Committee hearing. Homeland Security Secretary Janet Napolitano will appear Monday before the Senate Homeland Security and Governmental Affairs Committee. BP America Chairman and President Lamar McKay, who appeared before three congressional panels this week, will also testify at Monday's Senate hearing.
Darren Goode contributed to this report.