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President Obama Promises Changes to Prevent Future Oil Spills

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Kent Klein

U.S. President Barack Obama says he will bring to justice those responsible for the oil spill in the Gulf of Mexico.  Meanwhile, the price of BP shares dropped sharply in early trading on Tuesday.  The president is promising to change laws and procedures to prevent similar disasters in the future.

President Obama said that changes will be made, after a commission he appointed to investigate the oil leak held its first meeting.

The president spoke to reporters in the White House Rose Garden after talking with former Florida Governor Bob Graham and former Environmental Protection Agency Administrator William Reilly, who lead the panel.

"Their job, along with the other members of the commission, will be to thoroughly examine the spill and its causes, so that we never face such a catastrophe again," said President Obama.

Oil continues to gush into the Gulf, six weeks after the Deepwater Horizon oil rig that BP leased exploded, killing 11 people.  Several attempts to stop the flow of oil have been unsuccessful.

The government estimates that between 76 million and 167 million liters of crude have poured into the waters off the state of Louisiana.

Mr. Obama said the investigators have his support to follow the facts about the disaster wherever they lead.

"If the laws on our books are insufficient to prevent such a spill, the laws must change," President Obama added.  "If oversight was inadequate to enforce these laws, oversight has to be reformed.  If our laws were broken, leading to this death and destruction, my solemn pledge is that we will bring those responsible to justice on behalf of the victims of this catastrophe and the people of the Gulf [of Mexico] region."

As the president spoke, U.S. Attorney General Eric Holder was heading to the region to meet with state attorneys general to discuss possible criminal prosecutions relating to the disaster.

Mr. Obama said he wants his commission to report to him in six months with recommendations on preventing similar spills.

"We owe all those who have been harmed, as well as future generations, a full and vigorous accounting of the events that led to what has now become the worst oil spill in U.S. history," he said.  "Only then can we be assured that deep water drilling can take place safely."

The oil company BP is working on two relief wells that are considered to be the best solution to the problem.  But they are not expected to be completed until August.

BP says its cost of stopping the leak and cleaning up the damage is approaching $1 billion.

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