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May 23, 2010

Coast Guard Commandant: Government Must Stick with BP

by Dan Robinson

The U.S. Coast Guard commandant says there is no alternative at this point but to allow BP to continue with the steps it is taking to stop the deep sea oil leak in the Gulf of Mexico.  The Obama administration faced more sharp questions on Monday about BP's response to the disaster, and how the government is overseeing operations.

The remarks by Admiral Thad Allen, who has been directing government operations to contain the huge spill in the Gulf, came a day after Interior Secretary Ken Salazar said BP could be pushed out of the way if it fails to carry out its responsibilities.

Listen to Susan Yackee's interview with Kurt Davies of Greenpeace on oil spill:

Since the Deepwater Horizon oil rig exploded and sank, the Obama administration has found itself on the defensive, with critics asserting that the government has not been aggressive enough in acting to stop the leak or putting enough pressure on BP.

On Monday, Admiral Allen echoed what the White House has told reporters in briefings for weeks, namely, that the private sector and oil industry have the most advanced equipment and techniques to deal with such an unprecedented event.

Responding to a reporter asking why, as Secretary Salazar suggested, the government couldn't simply push BP aside, Allen said that would raise the question of who would take over.

ALLEN:   "To push BP out of the way would raise the question, to replace them with what?"

REPORTER:  "Do you think that this government right now is doing the best it can?"

ALLEN:  "I have been involved with the technical decisions made especially in relation to dealing with the leak, and they are pressing ahead, we are overseeing them, they are exhausting every technical means possible to deal with that leak."

Admiral Allen said he had also consulted with executives from other oil companies who he said supported the kind of steps BP is taking to stop the leak, which is more than 1500 meters below the ocean surface.

The Coast Guard commandant said he agrees with a statement by BP chief executive, Tony Hayward, that an attempt expected this week to plug the leak by pumping heavy drilling fluids into it has a 60 to 70 percent chance of success.

Government officials, he said, are asking BP officials tough questions in sessions he described as "inquisitorial".  

White House spokesman Robert Gibbs referred to the anger President Obama expressed in a Rose Garden news conference earlier this month about oil drilling safety systems that had failed.

"The president's viewpoint is that 'fail-safe' has to mean that, and that if it doesn't, then we have to examine why it doesn't and the circumstances around that and have that impact our decisions going forward," said Robert Gibbs.

Gibbs said President Obama will receive a report he requested from Interior Secretary Salazar on Thursday, adding it is also expected the president will take questions from reporters. 

Related video report by Mil Arcega