Work in oil-hit Gulf states not finished, Obama says
Oil has not been flowing into the Gulf of Mexico from a ruptured BP Plc well for a month, but the work in the affected states is not over, President Barack Obama said Saturday, dpa reported.
Obama was speaking at Panama City, Florida, where he was spending part of the weekend with wife Michelle and daughter Sasha.
"Today the well is capped. Oil is no longer flowing into the Gulf. It has not been flowing for a month. And I'm here to tell you that our job is not finished and we are not going anywhere until it is," Obama said.
"That's the message that I wanted to come here and deliver directly to the people along the Gulf Coast - because it's the men and women of this region who have felt the burden of this disaster."
Administration officials said Friday that BP must complete work on its relief well in order to be certain that the worst oil spill in US history has been stopped for good.
New tests taken Thursday raised fresh warnings and left engineers uncertain how to proceed with drilling the relief well, currently idle about 10 metres away from the source of a months-long ecological disaster in the Gulf of Mexico.
While a cementing procedure earlier this month may have already sealed off the entire well, Coast Guard Admiral Thad Allen made clear that only the completion of the relief drilling could make certain that the gusher had been permanently stopped.
The relief well had long been viewed as the last step in permanently plugging the ruptured oil well, which has leaked about 4.9 million barrels of oil into the Gulf since the April 20 explosion of the Deepwater Horizon drilling rig.
Outlining next steps, Obama said the monitoring and removal of surface oil would continue. A recent report by US scientists found that the majority of oil has evaporated or dispersed, or has been burned, skimmed or recovered from the wellhead.
"But I will not be satisfied until the environment has been restored, no matter how long it takes," Obama said.
He emphasized that the beaches all along the Gulf Coast "are clean, they are safe, and they are open for business. That's one of the reasons Michelle, Sasha, and I are here ... to let our fellow Americans know that they should come on down here."
The Obamas are scheduled to return to Washington Sunday, with a longer vacation planned next week in Martha's Vineyard, Massachusetts.
In a separate development, the US state of Alabama is suing BP for damages after the oil spill, a spokeswoman for the company in London confirmed Saturday.
Alabama's Attorney General Troy King had announced the decision on Friday, saying the company had caused catastrophic damage to the state and its citizens.
"We are suing them for the amount it will take to make Alabama whole," he said.
The state is also suing Anadarko and TransOcean. TransOcean owned the rig, while Anadarko is a co-owner of the wellhead.
King told the television station CNN that the lawsuit was a result of BP's delaying tactics, "broken promises" and "their history of saying one thing and doing another."
BP rejected King's accusations, saying it had already agreed to compensate those who made legitimate claims.
"We have established a claims process with an initial commitment of 20 billion dollars from BP, and we have already paid 352 million dollars in claims," spokeswoman Sheila Williams said.
The voluntary claims process that BP has established remains the surest and quickest way to get all legitimate claims paid," she added. "It's the best way to ensure that the full amount goes to claimants, and not to pay attorney's fees."