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President Rips Oil-Drilling Executives for Finger-Pointing

Updated: 5:51 p.m.

President Barack Obama on Friday blasted executives of the three companies involved in the Gulf oil disaster for their “ridiculous spectacle” of finger-pointing during this week’s House and Senate committee hearings on the causes of the spill.

“You had executives of BP and Transocean and Halliburton falling over each other to point the finger of blame at somebody else. The American people could not have been impressed with that display, and I certainly wasn’t,” Obama said during remarks after meeting with Cabinet and administration officials to determine the next steps in the effort to stop the Gulf of Mexico spill, which began on April 20 with an explosion on a BP drilling rig.

The president said he could feel the anger and frustration of Gulf Coast residents over the disaster during his visit to the region earlier this month.

“And let me tell you, it is an anger and frustration that I share as president. And 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 denounced the “cozy relationship” that has existed between oil companies and the federal agency that permits them to drill. He said he has directed Interior Secretary Ken Salazar to conduct “a top-to-bottom reform” of the Minerals Management Service.

The president also sought to downplay reports, including a National Public Radio story that aired Friday, that cite new scientific evidence that the oil spill may be more than 10 times larger than the original estimate.

“I know there have been varying reports over the last few days about how large the leak is, but since no one can get down there in person, we know there is a level of uncertainty,” he said. “What really matters is this: There’s oil leaking, and we need to stop it.”

Lawmakers have latched on to those reports as proof of the need for legislation to raise the liability cap on BP and other involved companies from its current limit of $75 million.

“It is becoming clear that this will be the most devastating and costly spill in American history, worse than the Exxon Valdez spill. We owe it to taxpayers, to the local fisheries, to the local tourism industry and to small businesses to ensure that BP pays for every last cent of the massive economic damage resulting from the spill,” said Rep. Rush Holt (D-N.J.), a member of the Natural Resources Committee.

Holt is among a group of more than 30 Members pushing legislation that would raise the liability cap to $10 billion — a prospect for which the White House has signaled support.

Tony Hayward, BP Group CEO, reacted to Obama’s comments later Friday and said the company is committed to a swift cleanup and preventing future spills.
“We absolutely understand and share President Obama’s sense of urgency over the length of time this complex task is taking,” he said. “We want to thank the president and his administration for their ongoing engagement in this effort.”

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