As part of its continued efforts to show that when it comes to the BP oil spill, officials are on the case, the White House posted this photograph of President Obama on the phone this morning with the Gulf Coast governors.
Photo by White House photographer Pete Souza
This comes as Coast Guard Admiral Thad Allen prepares to join press secretary Robert Gibbs at today’s White House briefing, and not long after Secretary of Homeland Security Janet Napolitano and Interior Secretary Ken Salazar held a press conference in Galiano, Louisiana.
"We are going to stay on this and stay on BP until this gets done and this gets done the right way," Napolitano said today.
She outlined how the Obama administration had devoted to efforts in the Gulf more than 22,000 personnel, hundreds of thousands of feet of boom, and more than a thousand vessels "that are on the water to skim, to lay boom, to pick up oil."
The White House has in recent days been criticized by normally supportive political voices, such as DNC member Donna Brazile, who said on THIS WEEK yesterday, “one of the problems I have with the administration is that they're not tough enough. They are waiting for BP to say, ‘Oh, we've got a new plan to stop the oil leak.’ They need to stop it, contain it, clean it up, and try to help us conserve our coastal wetlands.”
James Carville told CNN last week that the Obama administration is “risking everything by this go-along with BP strategy they have. And it seems like lackadaisical on this. I think that the government thinks they're partnering with BP. I think they actually believe that BP has some kind of a good motivation here. And that's one of the sort whole flaws, is they're naive.”
What more could the administration do?
The federal government could commander control of the entire operation, though they would likely need to rely upon BP’s equipment and personnel, and assuming control of the effort could open the government up to cost and liability issues.
Environmentalists say the administration could indubitably force BP to be more transparent in its sharing of information.
There are clear questions of authority. Last week the EPA told BP to use a new dispersant; BP later told the EPA that it would do no such thing.
Moreover, there have been contradictions from members of the administration. While Secretary Salazar has continually talked about keeping “the boot on the neck of British Petroleum to carry out the responsibilities that they have” to stop the spill, Admiral Allen seemed to indicate he didn’t have much of an issue with BP.
“I give them direction or the federal on-scene coordinator gives them direction, we get a response,” Allen said. “I've got (BP CEO) Tony Hayward's personal cell phone number. If I have a problem, I call him. Some of the problems we have had that we've worked through are more logistics and coordination issues…. I trust Tony Hayward. When I talk to him, I get an answer.”
Asked about criticism that the U.S. Coast Guard has been too cozy with BP, Lt. John Kousch told ABC News’ Ryan Owens, “we all have a vested interest in making sure it's land on the shores of LA or anywhere else. If it does, it's cleaned up as efficiently as possible…BP is our friend.”
Louisiana Gov. Bobby Jindal has continually expressed his frustration with both BP and the federal government.
On May 2, Gov. Jindal requested that federal authorities and BP provide three million feet of absorbent boom, five million feet of hard boom and 30 'jack up' barges. Of that, less than 800,000 feet of hard boom has arrived - less than a fifth of the request. About 140,000 feet of that hard boom is sitting waiting for BP to tell contractors where to take it.
“It is clear we don’t have the resources we need to protect our coast, we need more boom, more skimmers, more vacuums, more jack-up barges that are still in short supply,” Jindal said today. “Let’s be clear, every day that this oil sits is one more day that more of our marsh dies.”
The week of May 10, since it was apparent that neither BP nor the federal government had a plan to deal with this spill, Louisiana authorities also asked for the Army Corps of Engineers for an emergency permit for a specific plan to dredge and building new barrier islands to keep the oil from shore and wetlands. That also has yet to be approved.
“The decision-makers there from the Coast Guard on the ground, we’ve been frustrated with the plan to-date which has often been too late for the oil hitting our coast,” Jindal said today.
- Jake Tapper