President Obama is back in the Gulf of Mexico for a two-day tour followed by a national prime-time TV address Tuesday, June 15, on the worst ecological disaster in U.S. history.
The president’s tour and speech add to the growing pressure on British Petroleum to speed up its payments to crisis victims and to increase what are seen as inadequate efforts thus far to curtail the now clearly unprecedented amount of oil fouling both the surface and undersea waters of the Gulf of Mexico.
The White House is also calling for establishment of a third party to take control of administration of the billions of dollars BP must pay out for damages, taking control away from the company itself.
The 42,000 claims filed thus far are from not only shrimpers, oystermen and seafood processors but from hotels, restaurants, machine shops, tour companies and many others.
A seafood restaurant owner in St. Bernard Parish told the World by phone June 14 that no-one in the BP claims office he has been calling is answering the phone. He said small businessmen he knows who do get through get adjusters on the phone who “have not even heard of the towns they are calling from.”
The government has revised its estimates of the size of the spill, which were from 5,000 to 19,000 barrels daily, to 20,000 to 40,000 barrels daily.
Coast Guard Admiral Thad Allen said, however, that “a true measure of the spill won’t be known until August” which is the earliest that BP says it will be able to stop the leak with a relief well.
Using the government’s latest, but admittedly not final estimates, 90 million gallons have spilled into the Gulf since the BP rig exploded, sank and killed 11 workers in April.
In addition to Louisiana, oil is now coming onshore in Mississippi, Alabama and Florida.
In an about face, Republican House Minority Leader John Boehner said he now favors lifting the liability cap on BP but says he wants the cap “redefined.”
Boehner earlier seemed to favor U.S. taxpayers kicking in to pay for the oil spill but said this weekend “not a dime” of public funds should be used.
Democrats are calling on him now to back a bill they support which would lift that cap.
In a related development Climate Progress Reports that days after Utah’s Republican governor called for new tax breaks for oil companies to spur additional investment in domestic oil production, Chevron discovered a leaking pipeline that was spewing 50 gallons of crude oil per minute into Red Butte Creek in Salt Lake City. By the time the leak was capped 21,000 gallons of oil had spilled out, closing the city’s largest park.
Photo: In Gulf Shores, Ala., waitresses hear Alabama National Guard members explain the procedures for filing an oil spill claim against BP, June 11. Dave Martin/AP