President Obama is making a third visit to the U.S. Gulf coast to inspect progress in stopping the deep-sea oil leak and fighting oil washing ashore on beaches in four states. It was the president's second visit to the area in a week, and came amid ongoing efforts by BP to cap the leaking well in the Gulf.
Facing criticism that he has failed to demonstrate sufficient empathy for people in the Gulf suffering from the impact of the oil leak, the president this time included visits with local residents, business leaders and fishermen in addition to meetings with local and state officials.
President Obama has said he is furious about the situation, the strongest term he has used since the April 20th explosion that killed 11 workers and sinking of the Deepwater Horizon oil drilling platform.
In remarks to reporters after arriving in Louisiana, and shortly before he was driven to the town of Grand Isle, the president referred to media advertising BP is using to manage its image, saying BP should not be nickel and diming Gulf coast residents when it comes to compensation claims. "They have got moral and legal obligations here in the Gulf for the damage that has been done and what I don't want to hear is when they are spending that kind of money on their shareholders, and spending that kind of money on TV advertising that they are nickle and diming fishermen or small businesses here in the Gulf who are having a hard time," he said.
Nora Combel, a woman in Grand Isle, said, "I think he is down here to help us. I really do."
BP has succeeded in installing a large containment cap on the leaking well 1.5 kilometers below the water's surface to siphon oil to a collection ship at the surface.
But the company said it would not be possible to estimate how much oil and gas would be captured, and that the system's efficiency, continued operation, and ability to contain oil and gas could not be assured.
BP chief executive Tony Hayward has been sharply criticized over his handling of cleanup efforts, and statements he has made, and there have been calls for his resignation.
Louisiana Governor Bobby Jindal, who was among Gulf state governors with the president on this visit, is among those sharply questioning BP leadership. "If I was on that board [of directors of BP] I would wonder about trusting a multi-billion company to somebody who is making those kind of statements. But at the end of the day it doesn't matter to me who they have running the company as long as they do a better job than what they are doing today," he said.
The federal government has sent a $69 million bill to BP and what it called other responsible parties for costs so far of responding to the oil disaster and cleanup operations.
As the president toured areas of the Gulf on Friday, oil which had previously come ashore in Louisiana, Alabama and Mississippi, devastating wildlife populations, was beginning to wash up on beaches in the Florida panhandle.
Another casualty of the oil disaster has been President Obama's plan to visit to Indonesia and Australia later this month.
After postponing it last March as he struggled with the U.S. Congress over health care legislation, the president postponed a second time after he and his advisers decided he should remain in the U.S. to deal with the Gulf oil situation.