TRANSCRIPT of President Obama's oil spill press conference
Elyria pilot flying oil missions
BP's profit history
TRANSCRIPT of President Obama's Youngstown Speech, 5-18-10
President Barack Obama speaks to employees of V&M Star in Youngstown on Tuesday [5-18-10].
Transcript provided by the White House:
``Hello, hello, hello! ...
Everybody please have a seat.
Let me first of all just say thank you to some people who are doing outstanding work, beginning with somebody who I think is one of the best governors we've got in this country and just a great guy.
Give it up for Ted Strickland, your governor.
You've got an outstanding young mayor, Mayor Jay Williams.
The mayor of Girard, Jim Melfi is here as well.
Secretary of State, Jennifer Brunner.
And three terrific members of Congress: Tim Ryan, Charlie Wilson, John Boccieri.
Give them all a big round of applause.
It is good to be back in Ohio.
And it is good to be back in Mahoning Valley.
I appreciate the chance to tour this unbelievable facility.
You know, sometimes when you're President, you get kind of jaded.
You know, you've seen a lot of stuff, you go through these factories.
This one, when you walk through, is just unbelievable.
It's like off of a movie set.
And so it was exciting to see, but what was especially exciting was to see all the people who are working here and to see the work that you're doing here.
So I saw the 85-ton electric arc furnace.
I didn't see any evidence, but I know that you're building Iron Man's suits somewhere in here.
I appreciate the time that I've had to spend with all of you, partly because it's just nice to get out of Washington.
Washington is a wonderful place, beautiful, nice monuments.
I have this nice home office, live right above the store so I don't have a commute.
But sometimes in Washington, everybody is spending all their time arguing about politics and you lose track of the folks who sent you there in the first place.
And so it's important for me to meet you directly and hear your concerns and your hopes and your dreams.
And I've been trying to make a habit out of doing this.
About once a week I try to take a trip like this just to talk to folks who are working in various parts of our economy and to find out what's going on in communities.
And obviously the issue that's front and center on everybody's minds is the state of our economy.
In the two years I was running for President, I wasn't any stranger to this state.
These guys know I came here an awful lot.
And I saw firsthand what years of failed policies have done to working families, and I saw how hard these guys were working to put Ohio back to work. And the Mahoning Valley is a place that doesn't need an economist to tell you when a recession begins or when a recession ends, because plenty of folks here have known their own private recessions for 10, 20, 30 years.
Now, they may not have seen one like the one we just had, with an unemployment rate here that's at 14 percent and families having a tougher time than they'd ever imagined.
And a lot of people -- let's just be blunt -- aren't always real impressed when a governor or a President comes swooping in and talking about the economy, because the only headline they want to see is the headline that says "You're hired."
But I do want to talk about a piece of encouraging news for a change, something concrete, not just a lot of talk, because for a lot of the last two years, you didn't always get a lot of good news.
A year ago, we took significant action to jumpstart economic growth and job creation.
That action included making investments in sectors with the greatest potential for private sector job growth -- areas like clean energy and infrastructure.
And one of those investments is going towards revitalizing the site right next door, preparing it for new construction, and building a rail spur that connects to the Norfolk Southern line that runs through town.
So as a result of this investment, V&M Star's parent company decided to invest $650 million of its own money -- its own money -- to build a new one-million-square-foot [steel] mill right here in Youngstown, the largest industrial plant built in the valley since GM built its plant over in Lordstown in the 1960s.
Think about that -- biggest investment since the 1960s -- 50 years.
So right here, in the heart of the old steel corridor, where some never thought we'd see an investment like this again, they're placing a bet on American manufacturing and on this community.
And that bet is going to pay off for 400 construction jobs once they break ground this summer; 350 new manufacturing jobs once the mill comes online, which doubles the current workforce.
And, as everybody here knows, every time a new factory or plant opens or expands in America, it doesn't just employ the people who are working at the plant, everybody here, suddenly, they've got a little more money to go buy lunch somewhere or buy a computer for their kids or do something else, and so it becomes an economic lifeline for the whole community, capable of supporting hundreds or even thousands of jobs indirectly.
And so that's a success story that all of you are part of.
Now, I don't want to suggest this one plant and the jobs it'll create are going to make the difference for the entire community.
It took us decades to get to where we are; it's going to take some time to get to the point where we need to be.
But just think about where we were a year ago:
Our economy was collapsing.
Our businesses were losing 750,000 jobs every month.
Economists across the spectrum were warning very seriously of the possibility of another Great Depression.
And all of this was on top of one of the toughest decades for America's middle class that we've ever seen.
So that was the situation just a year ago.
Everybody has got kind of a selective memory here, but nobody was sure whether the economy was going to hold up.
So we had to make a choice: We could sit back, do nothing, make a bunch of excuses, play politics, and watch America's decline -- or we could stand up and fight for our future.
And I ran for President, Youngstown, because I believe that we're at a defining moment in our history.
And if we're going to keep the American Dream alive -- not just for us, but for the next generation -- then we couldn't just sit back and put off solving these big problems.
We had to tackle them head on.
Job one was rescuing our economy.
And that required some steps that were, frankly, unpopular -- steps like stabilizing a financial system that was on the brink of collapse, and intervening in an auto industry that was on the brink of extinction.
I knew those steps would be unpopular.
Even in Ohio, even in Michigan, even in auto-making states, if you polled, people said, don't do anything about the auto companies. And I knew politics being what it is, that some people would try to score political points off our decisions.
But I think it's fair to say -- any fair-minded person would say that if we hadn't acted, more people in the Valley, more people in Ohio, more people across America would be out of work today.
I mean, I can just give you a very concrete example -- the GM plant over in Lordstown would not be there.
Because GM would have liquidated.
Instead, GM is paying back its debts, turned a profit for the first time in three years, and a third shift is about to come back to work in Lordstown, putting that plant at maximum capacity.
Right next door.
And by the way, it was in part because of the decisions that these three guys made in Congress.
That's not easy. They've been knocked -- they've got bumps all over the backs of their heads -- some on top.
But it was the right thing to do.
Today my administration is announcing a landmark agreement to help dozens of communities like Youngstown revitalize and redevelop old, shuttered GM facilities, preparing them for new industries, new jobs, and new opportunity.
These steps were the right thing to do.
And it was the right thing to do to give tax relief to small businesses and working families right in the middle of this enormous recession -- 4.5 million working families in Ohio alone got tax breaks.
Most of you guys didn't know it, didn't notice it in your paycheck.
We didn't go around advertising it.
But each paycheck was a little bit bigger because of the steps that we took, and that meant that you could recirculate that money into the economy and keep demand up, which helped avert a depression.
That was the right thing to do.
It was the right thing to do to give loans to small businesses to keep their doors open -- more than 2,400 right here in Ohio got small business loans, because of the Recovery Act, because of the work that these guys did.
It was the right thing to do to extend unemployment benefits and make COBRA cheaper for people caught up in the recession until they could get back on their feet.
There's probably not a single person here who doesn't know somebody who either got unemployment benefits or used COBRA to make sure they could keep health insurance for their families when they lost their job.
That was the right thing to do.
It was the right thing to do to help governors like Ted avoid massive cuts to Medicaid and layoffs to teachers and police officers.
And it was the right thing to do to invest in this town's infrastructure.
We put all of that stuff in the recovery package because it was the right thing to do.
Now, we've got a long way to go before this recovery is felt in the lives of our neighbors and in all the communities that have lost so much ground in this recession and in years before.
But despite that sobering reality, despite all the naysayers in Washington, who are always looking for the cloud in every silver lining, the fact is our economy is growing again.
Last month, we gained 290,000 jobs.
So think about this.
We gained more jobs last month than any time in four years.
And it was the fourth month in a row that we've added jobs -- and almost all those jobs are in the private sector. Everybody talks about government was doing this, government was doing that.
Now, what we did was we encouraged the private sector, gave them the funding, the financing, the support, the infrastructure support in order to invest and get the economy moving again.
And last month also brought the largest increase in manufacturing employment since 1998, because I believe in manufacturing and I believe in manufacturing right here in the United States of America.
We can compete against anybody.
Youngstown can compete against anybody.
You got the best workers.
There's no reason why we can't compete with anybody if you guys have the support that you need.
And you know what?
I think those critics who have been trying to badmouth these efforts -- they know it's working.
These folks who opposed this every step of the way, predicting nothing but failure, they know it's working because -- this always puts a smile on my face -- even as they've tried to score political points attacking these members of Congress, a lot of them go home and then they claim credit for the very things they voted against.
They'll show up ... to cut the ribbons.
They'll put out a press release.
They'll send the mailings touting the very projects that they were opposing in Washington. They're trying to have it both ways.
I know that's hard to imagine in politics, that a politician might try to have it both ways, but here's the fact:
If the "just say no" crowd had won out, if we had done things the way they wanted to go, we'd be in a deeper world of hurt than we are right now.
Families wouldn't have seen those tax cuts.
Small businesses wouldn't have gotten those loans or those health care tax credits that they're now eligible for.
Insurance companies would still be deciding who they want to cover and when they want to cover them, and dropping your health care coverage whenever they felt like it.
The steady progress we're beginning to see across America would not exist.
And neither would the plant that you're about to build.
So I invite anybody who thinks we shouldn't have taken those actions that we took last year, or made those investments, to come to Youngstown and explain to us why that plant shouldn't be built.
Come talk to Ted Strickland and the mayor.
Come tell us why companies like this in towns like Youngstown shouldn't be given every chance to expand and add new jobs.
Tell us why small businesses shouldn't receive tax credits so they can help purchase health insurance for their employees.
Explain why seniors shouldn't get help paying for their medications when they hit that gap called the doughnut hole.
Explain why we should tell families that children with preexisting conditions aren't going to be able to get health insurance because we decided that insurance companies should be able to do whatever they want.
They need to explain why they would be nothing to ... to solve some of these problems that have been plaguing America for years now, decades.
So I'm here to say, that's not how we deal with crises.
That's not what America is about.
We did not become the greatest economic power that the world has ever known by avoiding problems.
The United States of America does not play for second place ...
And that's something we should all agree on ...
Everybody should be able to agree on that, for all the things we've gotten done despite the unified, determined opposition of one party, imagine how much further we could have gotten if I'd gotten a little help ...
We got your back.
I truly -- it is not too late to work together, not when there's so much progress to make, so many more success stories like this one to write -- because we're not Democrats first or Republicans first, we are Americans first.
That's what we're about.
So I know it's still tough.
I know a lot of times the future still feels uncertain.
And I'm not going to stand here and pretend that things are back to normal, or even close to where they need to be.
I read too many letters each night from people who are hurting, who are still out of work.
So I know things are still tough out there.
But I will tell you one thing:
It's people like you, people in towns like Youngstown all across America that I'm thinking about every single day when I go to the Oval Office.
I ran for office to make sure not just you but your kids and your grandkids have a shot at the American Dream because I wouldn't be in office if somebody hadn't worked hard to give me a shot at the American Dream ...
And I'm absolutely convinced that the steps that we're taking are going to help us bring about a better future for America.
I believe that seeking new markets for our exports is the right thing to do, and that enforcing the rules of free and fair trade is the right thing to do for our workers and for our companies.
I believe that investing in a clean energy economy to create good jobs of the future, building pipe for natural gas, but also building windmills and steel -- and turbines and advanced batteries for the new generation of electric cars, that's the right thing to do for our economy and for our environment.
I believe that raising standards in our schools and making college more affordable and upgrading our community colleges is the right thing to do so that every child has a chance to live out their dreams.
I believe that reforming our health care system to crack down on the worst practices of the insurance companies and giving everybody a decent shot at getting health insurance is the right thing to do.
And trying to control costs on premiums is the right thing to do ...
So we're going to keep up every effort to rebuild our economy and restore some security for the middle class -- a middle class forged in plants just like this one -- so that places like Youngstown don't just survive year after year, but they are thriving year after year.
And as long as I have the privilege of being your President, I'm going to keep fighting for a future that is brighter for this community, and for Ohio, and for the United States of America, the country that we love.
God bless you.
God bless all the work here.
God bless the United States of America ...''
TRANSCRIPT of President Obama's oil spill press conference, 5-27-10
THE WHITE HOUSE, WASHINGTON, D.C., THURSDAY, MAY 27, 2010
``OBAMA: Good afternoon, everybody.
Before I take your questions, I want to update the American people on the status of the BP [British Petroleum] oil spill, a catastrophe that is causing tremendous hardship in the Gulf Coast, damaging a precious ecosystem, and one that led to the death of 11 workers who lost their lives in the initial explosion.
Yesterday the federal government gave BP approval to move forward with a procedure known as a top kill, to try to stop the leak. This involves plugging the well with densely packed mud to prevent any more oil from escaping. And given the complexity of this procedure and the depth of the leak, this procedure offers no guarantee of success; but we're exploring any reasonable strategies to try and save the Gulf from a spill that may otherwise last until the relief wells are finished, and that's a process that could take months.
The American people should know that from the moment this disaster began, the federal government has been in charge of the response effort. As far as I'm concerned, BP is responsible for this horrific disaster, and we will hold them fully accountable on behalf of the United States as well as the people and communities victimized by this tragedy.
We will demand that they pay every dime they owe for the damage they've done and the painful losses that they've caused. And we will continue to take full advantage of the unique technology and expertise they have to help stop this leak.
But make no mistake: BP is operating at our direction. Every key decision and action they take must be approved by us in advance. I've designated Admiral Thad Allen, who has nearly four decades of experience responding to such disasters, as the national incident commander. And if he orders BP to do something to respond to this disaster, they are legally bound to do it.
So, for example, when they said they would drill one relief well to stem this leak, we demanded a backup and ordered them to drill two. And they are in the process of drilling two.
As we devise strategies to try and stop this leak, we're also relying on the brightest minds and most advanced technology in the world. We're relying on a team of scientists and engineers from our own national laboratories and from many other nations, a team led by our Energy Secretary and Nobel-Prize-winning physicist, Steven Chu. And we're relying on experts who've actually dealt with oil spills from across the globe, though none this challenging.
The federal government is also directing the effort to contain and clean up the damage from the spill, which is now the largest effort of its kind in U.S. history. In this case, the federal, state and local governments have the resources and expertise to play an even more direct role in the response effort. And I will be discussing this further when I make my second trip to Louisiana tomorrow [5-28-10].
But so far we have about 20,000 people in the region who are working around the clock to contain and clean up this oil. We have activated about 1,400 members of the National Guard in four states. We have the Coast Guard on site. We have more than 1,300 vessels assisting in the containment and cleanup efforts.
We've deployed over 3 million feet of total boom to stop the oil from coming onshore. And today, more than 100,000 feet of boom is being surged to Louisiana parishes that are facing the greatest risk from the oil.
So we'll continue to do whatever is necessary to protect and restore the Gulf Coast. For example, Admiral Allen just announced that we're moving forward with a section of Governor Jindal's barrier- island proposal that could help stop oil from coming ashore. It will be built in an area that is most at risk and where the work can be most quickly completed.
We're also doing whatever it takes to help the men and women whose livelihoods have been disrupted and even destroyed by this spill -- everyone from fishermen to restaurant and hotel owners.
So far, the Small Business Administration has approved loans and allowed many small businesses to defer existing loan payments.
At our insistence, BP is paying economic-injury claims. And we'll make sure that, when all is said and done, the victims of this disaster will get the relief that they are owed. We're not going to abandon our fellow citizens. We'll help them recover, and we will help them rebuild.
And in the meantime, I should also say that Americans can help by continuing to visit the communities and beaches of the Gulf Coast. I was talking to the governors just a couple of days ago, and they wanted me to remind everybody that, except for three beaches in Louisiana, all of the Gulf's beaches are open, they are safe and they are clean.
Now, as we continue our response effort, we're also moving quickly on steps to ensure that a catastrophe like this never happens again. I've said before that producing oil here in America is an essential part of our overall energy strategy. But all drilling must be safe.
In recent months,... I've heard people speaking about the dangers of too much government regulation. And I think we can all acknowledge there have been times in history when the government has overreached.
But in this instance, the oil industry's cozy and sometimes corrupt relationship with government regulators meant little or no regulation at all.
When Secretary Salazar took office, he found a Minerals Management Service (MMS) that has been plagued by corruption for years. This was the agency charged with not only providing permits but also enforcing laws governing oil drilling. And the corruption was underscored by a recent inspector general's report that covered activity which occurred prior to 2007, a report that can only be described as appalling. And Secretary Salazar immediately took steps to clean up that corruption.
But this oil spill has made clear that more reforms are needed. For years there's been a scandalously close relationship between oil companies and the agency that regulates them. That's why we've decided to separate the people who permit the drilling from those who regulate and ensure the safety of the drilling.
I also announced that no new permits for drilling new wells will go forward until a 30-day safety and environmental review was conducted. That review is now complete. Its initial recommendations include aggressive new operating standards and requirements for offshore energy companies, which we will put in place.
Additionally, after reading the report's recommendations with Secretary Salazar and other members of my administration, we're going to be ordering the following the actions:
First, we will suspend the planned exploration of two locations off the coast of Alaska.
Second, we will cancel the pending lease sale in the Gulf of Mexico and the proposed lease sale off the coast of Virginia.
Third, we will continue the existing moratorium and suspend the issuance of new permits to drill new deepwater wells for six months.
And four, we will suspend action on 33 deepwater exploratory wells currently being drilled in the Gulf of Mexico.
What's also been made clear from this disaster is that for years, the oil and gas industry has ... effectively been allowed to regulate themselves.
One example: Under current law, the Interior Department has only 30 days to review an exploration plan submitted by an oil company. That leaves no time for the appropriate environmental review. The result is, they're continually waived.
And this is just one example of a law that was tailored by the industry to serve their needs instead of the public's. The Congress needs to address these issues as soon as possible. And my administration will work with them to do so.
Still, preventing such a catastrophe in the future will require further study and deeper reform. That's why last Friday, I also signed an executive order establishing the National Commission on the BP Deepwater Horizon Oil Spill and Offshore Drilling.
While there are a number of ongoing investigations including an independent review by the National Academy of Engineering, the purpose of this commission is to consider both the root causes of the disaster and offer options on what safety and environmental precautions are necessary.
If the laws on our books are inadequate to prevent such a spill, or if we did not enforce those laws, then I want to know. I want to know what worked and what didn't work, in our response to the disaster, and where oversight of the oil and gas industry broke down.
Let me make one final point. More than anything else, this economic and environmental tragedy, and it's a tragedy, underscores the urgent need for this nation to develop clean, renewable sources of energy.
Doing so will not only reduce threats to our environment. It will create a new homegrown American industry that can lead to countless new businesses and new jobs.
We've talked about doing this for decades, and we've made significant strides over the last year when it comes to investing in renewable energy and energy efficiency. The House of Representatives has already passed a bill that would finally jump-start a permanent transition to a clean-energy economy. And there is currently a plan in the Senate, a plan that was developed with ideas from Democrats and Republicans, that would achieve the same goal.
If nothing else, this disaster should serve as a wake-up call that it's time to move forward on this legislation. It's time to accelerate the competition with countries like China who've already realized the future lies in renewable energy. And it's time to seize that future ourselves. So I call on Democrats and Republicans in Congress, working with my administration, to answer this challenge once and for all.
And I'll close by saying this. This oil spill is an unprecedented disaster. The fact that the source of the leak is a mile under the surface where no human being can go has made it enormously difficult to stop. But we are relying on every resource and every idea, every expert and every bit of technology, to work to stop it. We will take ideas from anywhere, but we are going to stop it.
And I know that doesn't lessen the enormous sense of anger and frustration felt by people on the Gulf and by so many Americans. Every day I see this leak continue, I am angry and frustrated as well.
I realize that this entire response effort will continue to be filtered through the typical prism of politics. But that's not what I care about right now. What I care about right now is the containment of this disaster and the health and safety and livelihoods of our neighbors in the Gulf Coast.
And for as long as it takes, I intend to use the full force of the federal government to protect our fellow citizens and the place where they live. I can assure you of that.
All right. I'm going to take some questions. I'm going to start with Jennifer Loven.
QUESTION: Thank you, Mr. President. This is on, right?
QUESTION: You just said that the federal government is in charge, and officials in your administration have said this repeatedly. Yet how do you explain that we're more than five weeks into this crisis and that BP is not always doing as you're asking; for example, with the type of dispersant that's being used?
And if I might add one more: To the many people in the Gulf who, as you said, are angry and frustrated and feel somewhat abandoned, what do you say about whether your personal involvement, your personal engagement, has been as much as it should be, either privately or publicly?
OBAMA: Well, I'll take the second question first, if you don't mind. The day that the rig collapsed and fell to the bottom of the ocean, I had my team in the Oval Office that first day. Those who think that we were either slow on our response or lacked urgency don't know the facts. This has been our highest priority since this crisis occurred.
Personally, I'm briefed every day, and have probably had more meetings on this issue than just about any issue since we did our Afghan review. And we understood from day one the potential enormity of this crisis, and acted accordingly.
So when it comes to the moment this crisis occurred, ... this entire White House and this entire federal government has been singularly focused on how do we stop the leak and how do we prevent and mitigate the damage to our coastlines.
The challenge we have is that we have not seen a leak like this before. And so people are going to be frustrated until it stops, and I understand that. And if you're living on the coasts and you see this sludge coming at you, you're going to be continually upset. And from your perspective, the response is going to be continually inadequate until it actually stops. And that's entirely appropriate, and understandable.
But from Thad Allen, our national incident coordinator, through, you know, the most junior member of the Coast Guard, or the undersecretary of NOAA, or any of the agencies under my charge, they understand this is the single most important thing that we have to get right.
Now, with respect to the relationship between our government and BP, the United States government has always been in charge of making sure that the response is appropriate.
BP, under the Oil Pollution Act of 1990, is considered the responsible party, which basically means they've got to pay for everything that's done to both stop the leak and mitigate the damage. They do so under our supervision, and any major decision that they make has to be done under the approval of Thad Allen, the national incident coordinator.
So this notion that somehow the federal government is sitting on the sidelines and for the last three or four or five weeks we've just been letting BP make a whole bunch of decisions is simply not true.
What is true is that when it comes to stopping the leak down below, the federal government does not possess superior technology to BP ...
Going back to my involvement, two or three days after this happened, we had a meeting down in the Situation Room, in which I specifically asked Bob Gates and Mike Mullen, what assets do we have that could potentially help, that BP or other oil companies around the world do not have? We do not have superior technology, when it comes to dealing with this particular crisis.
Now, one of the legitimate questions that I think needs to be asked is, should the federal government have such capacity? And that's part of what the role of the commission is going to be, is to take a look and say, do we make sure that a consortium of oil companies pay for specific technology, to deal with this kind of incident when it happens?
Should that response team that's effective be under the direct charge of the United States government or a private entity? But for now, BP has the best technology, along with the other oil companies, when it comes to actually capping the well down there.
Now, when it comes to what's happening on the surface, we've been much more involved in the in situ burns, in the skimming. Those have been happening more or less under our direction. And we feel comfortable about many of the steps that have been taken. There have been areas where there have been disagreements. I'll give you two examples.
Initially on this top kill, you know, there were questions in terms of how effective it could be. But also what were the risks involved? Because we're operating at such a pressurized level, a mile underwater, and at such frigid temperatures that the reactions of various compounds and various approaches had to be calibrated very carefully.
That's when I sent Steven Chu down, the Secretary of Energy, and he brought together a team, basically, a brain trust, some of the smartest folks we have at the national labs and in academia, to essentially serve as a oversight board with BP engineers and scientists in making calculations about how much mud could you pour down, how fast, without risking potentially the whole thing blowing.
So in that situation, you've got the federal government directly overseeing what BP is doing, and Thad Allen is giving authorization when finally we feel comfortable that the risks of attempting a top kill, for example, ... are sufficiently reduced that it needs to be tried.
I already mentioned the second example, which is, they wanted to drill one relief well. The experience has been that when you drill one relief well, potentially, you keep on missing the mark. And so it's important to have two to maximize the speed and effectiveness of a relief well.
And right now Thad Allen's down there because ... it's his view that some of the allocation of boom or other efforts to protect shorelines hasn't been as nimble as it needs to be. And he said so publicly. And so he will be making sure that in fact the resources to protect the shorelines are there immediately.
But ... here's the broad point. There has never been a point during this crisis in which this administration, up and down the line, in all these agencies, hasn't, number one, understood this was my top priority, getting this stopped and then mitigating the damage, and number two, understanding that if BP wasn't doing what our best options were, we were fully empowered to instruct them ... to do something different.
And so if you take a look at what's transpired over the last four to five weeks, there may be areas where there have been disagreements, for example, on dispersants. And these are complicated issues. But overall, the decisions that have been made have been reflective of the best science that we've got, the best expert opinion that we have, and have been weighing various risks and various options to allocate our resources in such a way that we can get this fixed as quickly as possible.
Okay. Jake Tapper.
QUESTION: Thanks, Mr. President.
QUESTION: You say that everything that could be done is being done. But there are those in the region and those industry experts who say that's not true.
Governor Jindal obviously had this proposal for a barrier. They say that if that had been approved when they first asked for it, they would have 10 miles up already. There are fishermen down there who want to work, who want to help, haven't been trained, haven't been told to go do so.
There are industry experts who say that they're surprised that tankers haven't been sent out there to vacuum, as was done in '93 outside Saudi Arabia. And then, of course, there's the fact that there are 17 countries that have offered to help, and ... it's only been accepted from two countries, Norway and Mexico.
How can you say that everything that can be done is being done, with all these experts and all these officials saying that?s not true?
OBAMA: Well, ... if the question is, Jake, are we doing everything perfectly out there, then the answer is, absolutely not.
We can always do better. If the question is, are we, each time there is an idea, evaluating it and making a decision is this the best option that we have right now based on how quickly we can stop this leak and how much damage can we mitigate, then the answer is yes.
So let's take the example of Governor Jindal's barrier islands idea. When I met with him when I was down there two weeks ago, I said I will make sure that our team immediately reviews this idea, that the Army Corps of Engineers is looking at the feasibility of it; and if ... they tell me that this is the best approach to dealing with this problem, then we're going to move quickly to execute.
If they have a disagreement with Governor Jindal's experts as to whether this would be effective or not, whether it was going to be cost-effective given the other things that needed to be done, then we'll sit down and try to figure that out.
And that essentially is what happened, which is why today you saw an announcement where, from the Army Corps' perspective, there were some areas where this might work, but there are some areas where it would be counterproductive and not a good use of resources.
So the point is, on each of these points that you just mentioned, that the job of our response team is to say, okay, if 17 countries have offered equipment and help, let's evaluate what they've offered, how fast can it get here, is it actually going to be redundant or will it actually add to the overall effort ...
Now, it's going to be entirely possible in a operation this large that mistakes are made, judgments prove to be wrong; that people say in retrospect, you know, if we could have done that or we did that, this might have turned out differently, although in a lot of cases, it may be speculation.
But the point that I was addressing from Jennifer was, does this administration maintain a constant sense of urgency about this? And are we examining every recommendation, and every idea is out there, and making our best judgment as to whether these are the right steps to take, based on the best experts that we know of? ...
QUESTION: I just want to follow up on the question, as it has to do with the relationship between the government and BP. It seems that you've made the case on the technical issues.
But onshore, Admiral Allen admitted the other day in a White House briefing that they needed to be pushed harder. Senator Mary Landrieu this morning said, it's not clear who's in charge, that the government should be in charge.
Why not ask BP to simply step aside on the onshore stuff, make it an entirely government thing? Obviously BP pays for it. But why not ask them to just completely step aside on that front?
And then also can you respond to all the comparisons that people are making about this with yourself?
OBAMA: Well, ... I'll take your second question first.
I'll leave it to you guys to make those comparisons ... and make judgments on it, because what I'm spending my time thinking about is, how do we solve the problem?
And when the problem is solved and people look back and do an assessment of all the various decisions that were made, I think people can make a historical judgment. And I'm confident that people are going to look back and say that this administration was on top of what was an unprecedented crisis.
In terms of shoreline protection, the way this thing has been set up, under the oil spill act of 1990 ... the Oil Pollution Act, is that BP has contracts with a whole bunch of contractors on file, in the event that there's an oil spill. And as soon as the Deep Horizon well went down, then their job is to activate those and start paying them. So a big chunk of the 20,000 who are already down there are being paid by BP.
The Coast Guard's job is to approve and authorize whatever BP is doing. Now, what Admiral Allen said today, and the reason he's down there today, is that if BP's contractors are not moving as nimbly, as effectively, as they need to be, then it is already the power of the federal government to redirect those resources ...
We don't have to necessarily reconfigure the setup down there. What we do have to make sure of is, is that on each and every one of the decisions that are being made about what beaches to protect, what's going to happen with these marshes, if we build a barrier island how's this going to have an impact on the ecology of the area over the long term? In each of those decisions, we've got to get it right.
QUESTION: ... You understand the credibility of these teams seems to be so bad ...
OBAMA: Right. I understand. And part of the purpose of this press conference is to explain to the folks down in the Gulf that ultimately it is our folks down there who are responsible. If they're not satisfied with something that's happening, then they need to let us know, and we will immediately question BP and ask them, why isn't XYZ happening?
And those skimmers, those boats, that boom, the people who are out there collecting some of the oil that's already hit shore, they can be moved and redirected at any point. And so understandably people are frustrated, because, look, this is a big mess coming to shore. And even if we've got a perfect organizational structure, spots are going to be missed.
Oil's going to go to places that maybe somebody thinks it could have been prevented from going. There's going to be damage that is heartbreaking to see. People's livelihoods are going to be affected in painful ways. The best thing for us to do is to make sure that every decision about how we're allocating the resources that we've got is being made based on the best expert advice that's available.
So I'll take one last stab at this, Chuck. The problem I don't think is that BP is off running around doing whatever it wants and nobody's minding the store. Inevitably, in something this big, there are going to be places where things fall short. But I want everybody to understand today that our teams are authorized to direct BP, in the same way that they'd be authorized to direct those same teams if they were technically being paid by the federal government.
In either circumstance, we've got the authority that we need; we've just got to make sure that we're exercising it effectively.
All right. Steve
QUESTION: Thank you, sir. On April 21st, Admiral Allen tells us, the government started dispatching equipment rapidly to the Gulf, and you just said, on day one, you recognized the enormity of the situation.
Yet here we are, 39, 40 days later. You're still having to rush more equipment, more boom. There are still areas of the coast unprotected. Why is it taking so long? And did you really act from day one for a worst-case scenario?
OBAMA: We did. ... let's take the example of boom. The way the plans have been developed, and I'm not an expert on this, but this is as it's been explained to me, pre-deploying boom would have been the right thing to do, making sure that there's boom right there in the region at various spots where you could anticipate if there was a spill of this size, the boom would be right there, ready to grab.
Unfortunately, that wasn't always the case. And so, you know, this goes back to something that Jake asked earlier. When it comes to the response since the crisis happened, I am very confident that the federal government has acted consistently with a sense of urgency.
When it comes to prior to this accident happening, I think there was a lack of anticipating what the worst-case scenarios would be, and that's a problem.
And part of that problem was lodged in MMS [Minerals Management Service] and the way that agency was structured. That was the agency in charge of providing permitting and making decisions in terms of where drilling could take place, but also in charge of enforcing the safety provisions. And as I indicated before, the inspector general's report that came out was scathing in terms of the problems there.
And when Ken Salazar came in, he cleaned a lot of that up; but more needed to be done and more needs to be done, which is part of the reason why he separated out the permitting function from the functions that involve enforcing the various safety regulations. But I think on a whole bunch of fronts, you had a complacency when it came to what happens in the worst-case scenario.
I'll give you another example, because this is something that some of you have written about, the question of how is it that oil companies kept on getting environmental waivers in getting their permits approved.
Well, it turns out that the way the process works, first of all there is a thorough environmental review as to whether a certain portion of the Gulf should be leased or not. That's a thoroughgoing environmental evaluation. Then the overall lease is broken up into segments for individual leases, and again there's an environmental review that's done.
But when it comes to a specific company with its exploration plan in that one particular area -- you know, they're going to drill right here in this spot, Congress mandated that only 30 days could be allocated before a yes-or-no answer was given. That was by law. So MMS's hands were tied.
And as a consequence, what became the habit predating my administration was, you just automatically gave the environmental waiver because you couldn't complete an environmental study in 30 days.
So what you've got is a whole bunch of aspects to how oversight was exercised, in deepwater drilling, that were very problematic. And that's why it's so important that this commission moves forward and examines, from soup to nuts, why did this happen? How should this proceed in a safe, effective manner? What's required when it comes to worst-case scenarios, to prevent something like this from happening?
I continue to believe that domestic oil production is important. But I also believe, we can't do this stuff if we don't have confidence that we can prevent crises like this from happening again.
And it's going to take some time for the experts to make those determinations. And as I said, in the meantime, I think it's appropriate that we keep in place the moratorium that I've already issued.
Okay, Chip Reid.
QUESTION: Thank you, Mr. President.
First of all, Elizabeth Birnbaum resigned today. Did she resign? Was she fired? Was she forced out? And if so, why? And should other heads roll as we go on here?
Secondly with regard to the Minerals Management Service, Secretary Salazar yesterday basically blamed the Bush administration for the cozy relationship there.
And you seemed to suggest that when you spoke in the Rose Garden a few weeks ago when you said, for too long -- a decade or more, most of those years, of course, the Bush administration -- there's been a cozy relationship between the oil companies and federal agency that permits them to drill.
But you knew as soon as you came in, and Secretary Salazar did, about this cozy relationship. But you continued to give permits, some of them under questionable circumstances. Is it fair to blame the Bush administration? Don't you deserve some of that?
OBAMA: Well, let me just make the point that I made earlier, which is, Salazar came in and started cleaning house, but the culture had not fully changed in MMS. And absolutely, I take responsibility for that. There wasn't sufficient urgency in terms of the pace of how those changes needed to take place.
There is no evidence that some of the corrupt practices that had taken place earlier took place under the current administration's watch, but a culture in which oil companies were able to get what they wanted, without sufficient oversight and regulation, that was a real problem. Some of it was constraints of the law, as I just mentioned. But we should have busted through those constraints.
Now, with respect to Ms. Birnbaum, I found out about her resignation today. Ken Salazar had been in testimony throughout the day, so I don't know the circumstances in which this occurred.
I can tell you what I've said to Ken Salazar, which is that we have to make sure, if we are going forward with domestic oil production, that the federal agency charged with overseeing its safety and security is operating at the highest level. And I want people in there who are operating at the highest level, and aren't making excuses when things break down, but are intent on fixing them. And I am confident that Ken Salazar can do that.
QUESTION: And his job is safe?
QUESTION: Thank you, Mr. President. We're learning today that the oil has been gushing as much as five times the initial estimates. What does that tell you and the American people about the extent to which BP can be trusted on any of the information that it's providing, whether the events leading up to this spill, any of their information?
OBAMA: Right. Well, BP's interests are aligned with the public interest to the extent that they want to get this well capped. It's bad for their business; it's bad for their bottom line. They're going to be paying a lot of damages, and we'll be staying on them about that.
So I think it's fair to say that they want this thing capped as badly as anybody does. And they want to minimize the damage as much as they can.
I think it is a legitimate concern to question whether BP's interest, in being fully forthcoming about the extent of the damage, is aligned with the public interest. I mean, their interest may be to minimize the damage and, to the extent that they have better information than anybody else, to not be fully forthcoming.
So my attitude is, we have to verify whatever it is they say about the damage.
This is an area, by the way, where I do think our efforts fell short. And I'm not contradictoring my prior point that people were working as hard as they could and doing the best that they could on this front. But I do believe that, when the initial estimates came, that there were ... 5,000 barrels spilling into the ocean per day.
That was based on satellite imagery and satellite data that would give a rough calculation.
At that point, BP already had a camera down there but wasn't fully forthcoming in terms of what did those pictures look like, and when you set it up in time lapse photography, experts could then make a more accurate determination.
The administration pushed them to release it, but they should have pushed them sooner. I mean, I think that it took too long for us to stand up our flow tracking group that has now made these more accurate ranges of calculation.
Now keep in mind that that didn't change what our response was. As I said from the start, we understood that this could be really bad. We're hoping for the best but preparing for the worst.
And so there aren't steps that we would have taken in terms of trying to cap the well or skimming the surface or the in situ burns or preparing to make sure when this stuff hit shore that we could minimize the damage. All those steps would have been the same even if we had information that this flow was coming out faster.
And eventually we would have gotten better information because by law the federal government, if it's going to be charging BP for the damage that it causes, is going to have to do the best possible assessment.
But there was a lag of several weeks that I think shouldn't have happened.
Okay. Helen Thomas.
QUESTION: Mr. President, when are you going to get out of Afghanistan? Why are we continuing to kill and die there? What is the real excuse? And don't give us this Bushism, if we don't go there, they'll all come here.
OBAMA: Well, Helen, the reason we originally went to Afghanistan was because that was the base from which attacks were launched that killed 3,000 people.
QUESTION: That's not what ...
OBAMA: And I'm going to get to your question, I promise. But I just want to remind people we went there because the Taliban was harboring al Qaeda, which had launched an attack that killed 3,000 Americans.
Al Qaeda escaped capture [Tora Bora], and they set up in the border regions between Pakistan and Afghanistan. Al Qaeda has affiliates that not only provide them safe harbor but increasingly are willing to conduct their own terrorist operations, initially in Afghanistan and in Pakistan, but increasingly directed against Western targets, and targets of our allies as well.
So it is absolutely critical that we dismantle that network of extremists that are willing to attack us. And they are currently ... a threat to us. They're a significant threat to us. I wouldn't be deploying young men and women into harm's way if I didn't think that they were an absolute threat to us.
Now, General McChrystal's strategy, which I think is the right one, is that we are going to clear out Taliban strongholds; we are going to strengthen the capacity of the Afghan military; and we are going to get them stood up in a way that allows us then to start drawing down our troops but continuing to provide support for Afghan[istan] in its effort to create a stable government.
It is a difficult process. At the same time, we've also got to work with Pakistan so that they are more effective partners in dealing with the extremists that are within their borders.
And it is a big, messy process, but we are making progress in part because the young men and women under General McChrystal's supervision, as well as our coalition partners, are making enormous sacrifices, but also on the civilian side we're starting to make progress in terms of building capacity that will allow us then to draw down within an effective partner.
Okay. Jackie Calmes, New York Times.
QUESTION: Thank you, Mr. President. Is this on? Okay.
I want to follow up on something, [the] exchange you had with Chip. Leaving aside the existing permits for drilling in the Gulf, weeks before BP, you had called for expanded drilling. Do you now regret that decision? And why did you do so, knowing what you have described today about the sort of dysfunction in the MMS?
OBAMA: I continue to believe what I said at that time, which was that domestic oil production is an important part of our overall energy mix. It has to be part of an overall energy strategy.
I also believe that is insufficient to meet the needs of our future, which is why I've made huge investments in clean energy, why we continue to promote solar and wind and biodiesel and a whole range of other approaches, why we're putting so much emphasis on energy efficiency.
But we're not going to be able to transition to these clean- energy strategies right away.
I mean, we're still years off and some technological breakthroughs away from being able to operate on purely a clean-energy grid.
During that time, we're going to be using oil. And to the extent that we're using oil, it makes sense for us to develop our oil and natural gas resources here in the United States and not simply rely on imports.
That's important for our economy. That's important for economic growth. So the overall framework, which is to say, domestic oil production should be part of our overall energy mix. I think continues to be the right one. Where I was wrong was in my belief that the oil companies had their act together when it came to worst- case scenarios.
Now, that wasn't based on just my blind acceptance of their statements. Oil drilling has been going on in the gulf, including deepwater, for quite some time. And the record of accidents like this, we hadn't seen before.
But it just takes one for us to have a wakeup call and recognize that claims that failsafe procedures were in place, or that blowout preventers would function properly, or that valves would switch on and shut things off, that whether it's because of human error, because the technology was faulty, because when you're operating at these depths, you can't anticipate exactly what happens, those assumptions proved to be incorrect.
And so I'm absolutely convinced that we have to do a thoroughgoing [investigation] of those safety procedures and those safety records.
And we have to have confidence that, even if it's just a one-in-a- million shot, that we've got enough technology know-how that we can shut something like this down, not in a month, not in six weeks, but in two or three or four days. And I don't have that confidence right now.
QUESTION: If I could follow up?
QUESTION: Are you sorry now? Do you regret that your team had not done the reforms at the Minerals Management Service that you've subsequently called for?
And I'm also curious as how it is that you didn't know about Ms. Birnbaum's resignation/firing before?
OBAMA: Well, you're assuming it was a firing. If it was a resignation, then she would have submitted a letter to Mr. Salazar this morning, at a time when I had a whole bunch of other stuff going on.
QUESTION: So you rule out that she was fired?
OBAMA: I'm (laughs) Jackie, I don't know. ... I found out about it this morning, so I don't yet know the circumstances. And Ken Salazar's been in testimony on the Hill.
With respect to your first question, at MMS, Ken Salazar was in the process of making these reforms. But the point that I'm making is, is that, obviously, they weren't happening fast enough. If they had been happening fast enough, this might have been caught.
Now, it's possible that it might not have been caught. All right? I mean, we could have gone through a whole new process for environmental review, you could have had a bunch of technical folks take a look at BP's plans, and they might have said, 'This meets industry standards.'
We haven't had an accident like this in 15 years, and we should go ahead. That's what this commission has to discover, ... you know, was this a systemic breakdown? Is this something that could happen once in a million times? Is it something that could happen once in a thousand times or once every 5,000 times? You know, what exactly are the risks involved?
Now let me make one broader point, though, about energy. The fact that oil companies now have to go a mile underwater and then drill another three miles below that in order to hit oil tells us something about the direction of the oil industry. Extraction is more expensive, and it is going to be inherently more risky.
And so that's part of the reason you never heard me say, 'Drill, baby, drill,' because we can't drill our way out of the problem. It may be part of the mix as a bridge to a transition to new technologies and new energy sources, but we should be pretty modest in understanding that the easily accessible oil has already been sucked up out of the ground.
And as we are moving forward, the technology gets more complicated, the oil sources are more remote, and that means that there's probably going to end up being more risk. And we as a society are going to have to make some very serious determinations in terms of what risks are we willing to accept, and that's part of what the commission, I think, ... is going to have to look at.
I will tell you, though, that understanding we need to grow, we're going to be consuming oil in [the short] term for our industries and for how people live in this country, we're going to have to start moving on this transition.
And that's why, when I went to the Republican caucus just this week, I said to them, let's work together. You've got Lieberman and Kerry, who previously were working with Lindsey Graham, even though Lindsey's not on the bill right now, coming up with a framework that has the potential to get bipartisan support and says, yes, we're going to still need oil production, but you know what, we can see what's out there on the horizon.
And it's a problem if we don't start changing how we operate.
Okay. Macarena Vidal. Not here? Oh, there you are.
QUESTION: Mr. President, you announced, or the White House announced ... two days ago that you were going to send ... 1,200 members of the National Guard to the border.
I wanted to, if you could, [say] what their target is going to be, what you're planning to achieve with that, if you could clarify a bit more the mission that they're going to have. And also, on Arizona, after you have criticized so much the immigration law that has been approved there, would you support the boycott that some organizations are calling towards that state?
OBAMA: Okay. I've indicated that I don't approve of the Arizona law. I think it's the wrong approach. I understand the frustrations of the people of Arizona and a lot of folks along the border that that border has not been entirely secured in a way that is both true to our traditions as a nation of law and as a nation of immigrants.
You know, I'm the president of the United States. I don't endorse boycotts or not endorse boycotts. That's something that the private citizens can make a decision about.
What my administration is doing is examining very closely this Arizona law and its implications for the civil rights and civil liberties of the people in Arizona, as well as the concern that you start getting a patchwork of 50 different immigration laws around the country, in an area that is inherently the job of the federal government.
Now, for the federal government to do its job, everybody has got to step up. And so I tried to be as clear as I could this week. And I will repeat it to everybody who's here.
We have to have a comprehensive approach to immigration reform. The time to get moving on this is now. And I am prepared to work with both parties and members of Congress, to get a bill that does a good job securing our borders, holds employers accountable, makes sure that those who have come here illegally have to pay a fine, pay back taxes, learn English and get right by the law.
We have the opportunity to do that. We've gotten a vote of a supermajority in the Senate just four years ago. There's no reason why we shouldn't be able to recreate that bipartisan spirit, to get this problem solved.
Now, with respect to the National Guardsmen and women, you know, I have authorized up to 1,200 National Guardspersons, in a plan that was actually shaped last year.
So this is not simply in response to the Arizona law.
And what we find is, is that National Guardspersons can help on intelligence, dealing with both drug and human trafficking along the borders. They can relieve border guards so that the border guards then can be in charge of law enforcement in those areas. So there are a lot of functions that they can carry out that helps leverage and increase the resources available in this area.
By the way, we didn't just send National Guard; we've also got a package of $500 million in additional resources because, for example, if we are doing a better job dealing with trafficking along the border, we've also got to make sure that we've got prosecutors down there who can prosecute those cases.
But that the key point I want to emphasize to you is that I don't see these issues in isolation. We're not going to solve the problem just solely as a consequence of sending National Guard troops down there. We're going to solve this problem because we have created an orderly, fair, humane immigration framework in which people are able to immigrate to this country in a legal fashion, [amd] employers are held accountable for hiring legally present workers.
And I think we can craft that system if everybody's willing to step up. And I told the Republican Caucus when I met with them this week, I don't even need you to meet me halfway; meet me a quarter of the way. I'll bring in the majority of Democrats to a smart, sensible, comprehensive immigration reform bill, but I'm going to have to have some help, given the rules of the Senate, where a simple majority's not enough.
Okay. Last question, Major.
QUESTION: Thank you, Mr. President. Good afternoon.
OBAMA: Good afternoon.
QUESTION: Two issues. Some in your government have said the federal government's boot is on the neck of BP. Are you comfortable with that imagery, sir? Is your boot on the neck of BP? And can you understand, sir, why some in the Gulf who feel besieged by this oil spill consider that a meaningless, possibly ludicrous, metaphor?
Secondarily, can you tell the American public, sir, what your White House did or did not offer Congressman Sestak to not enter the Democratic senatorial primary? And how will you meet your levels of expressed transparency and ethics to convey that answer to satisfy what appear to be bipartisan calls for greater disclosure about that matter? Thank you.
OBAMA: There will be an official response shortly on the Sestak issue.
QUESTION: From you?
OBAMA: which I hope will answer your questions.
QUESTION: From you, sir?
OBAMA: You will get it from my administration, ... and ... when I say shortly, I mean shortly. I don't mean weeks or months ...
QUESTION: Can you assure the public it was ethical and legal, sir?
OBAMA: I can assure the public that nothing improper took place. But as I said, there will be a response shortly on that issue.
You know, with respect to the metaphor that was used, you know, I think Ken Salazar would probably be the first one to admit that he has been frustrated, angry, and occasionally emotional about this issue ...
I would say that, you know, we don't need to use language like that; what we need are actions that make sure that BP is being held accountable.
And that's what I intend to do, and I think that's what Ken Salazar intends to do.
But look, we've gone through a difficult year and a half. This is just one more bit of difficulty. And this is going to be hard, not just right now; it's going to be hard for months to come. The Gulf ... is going to be affected in a bad way.
And so my job right now is just to make sure that everybody in the Gulf understands this is what I wake up to in the morning and this is what I go to bed at night thinking about the spill. ... And it's not just me, by the way. You know, when I woke up this morning, and I'm shaving, and Malia knocks on my bathroom door and she peeks in her head and she says, 'Did you plug the hole yet, Daddy?' ... because I think everybody understands that, you know, when we are fouling the Earth like this, it has concrete implications not just for this generation but for future generations.
I grew up in Hawaii, where the ocean is sacred. And when you see birds flying around with oil all over their feathers and turtles dying and you know, that doesn't just speak to the immediate economic consequences of this; this speaks to, you know, how are we caring for this incredible bounty that we have?
And so, you know, sometimes when I hear folks down in Louisiana expressing frustrations, I may not always think that their comments are fair.
On the other hand, I probably think to myself, you know, these are folks who grew up, ... fishing in these wetlands and, ... seeing this as an integral part of who they are. And to see that messed up in this fashion would be infuriating.
So the thing that the American people need to understand is that not a day goes by where the federal government is not constantly thinking about, how do we make sure that we minimize the damage on this, we close this thing down, we review what happened, to make sure that it does not happen again.
And in that sense, ... there are analogies to what's been happening in terms of ... the financial markets and some of these other areas, where big crises happen. It forces us to do some soul searching. And I think that's important for all of us to do.
In the meantime, my job is to get this fixed. And ... in case you're wondering who's responsible, I take responsibility. It is my job to make sure that everything is done to shut this down.
That doesn't mean it's going to be easy. It doesn't mean it's going to happen right away or the way I'd like it to happen. It doesn't mean that we're not going to make mistakes. But there shouldn't be any confusion here. The federal government is fully engaged, and I'm fully engaged.
All right, thank you very much, everybody.''
NEWS ARTICLE from The Chronicle-Telegram, 5-31-10, By Alicia Castelli
[Elyria pilot flying oil missions]
``ELYRIA -- While home on a weekend pass to attend his son's high school graduation, Lt. Col. Ken Saunders spared a few minutes to talk about what his Air Force Reserve's unit is doing to help fight the BP oil spill in the Gulf of Mexico.
Saunders, 47, of Elyria, is a pilot and the mission commander of his C-130 unit out of Youngstown. He's based in Mississippi these days, linked with scientists fighting the environmental catastrophe via a crisis center in Louisiana.
Saunders' unit has been spraying a dispersant over the oil slick for the past few weeks. He left Saturday to return to the site 'indefinitely,' he said.
'I don't know how long I'll be down there,' he said. 'It depends on when they plug up the leak.'
On April 20 , an explosion on an offshore oil rig drilling off the coast of Louisiana killed 11 workers and injured 17. It also damaged the wellhead and millions of gallons of oil have leaked into the Gulf of Mexico during the past 40 days.
Saunders' unit has flown 86 missions over 28,000 acres of water, where they spray a chemical called Corexit 9500 from 100 feet above the water onto the oil below. The chemical breaks up oil slicks and hastens breakdown.
'It causes the oil to break up into droplets and that allows the environment to break it down quicker over time,' Saunders said. 'It also causes (the oil droplets) to sink. We spray far away from shore so the oil's not sinking on sensitive areas like coral and shrimp.'
Saunders said it's one way to keep the oil from contaminating the shoreline. Although oil is already washing up on Louisiana's coastline, it hasn't made landfall elsewhere yet.
'We were initially spraying east of the source, but since that time the oil slick is actually flowing more toward the west and northwest so we've shifted where we're working,' he said.
The flight crews look for brown or black oil floating on the surface. Reddish oil means emulsification has begun and the Corexit won't be that effective, Saunders said.
'The oil is pretty far-spread,' Saunders said. 'Once it comes up, it tends to break into long bands of oil and slicks. It's not one continuous oil slick.'
Crews can spray for eight minutes at a time before they need return for more chemical, Saunders said, adding the constant back-and-forth flying during a 12-hour duty day is tiring.
It's not an unfamiliar part of the country for Saunders who was stationed in the same area after Hurricanes Katrina and Rita to spray for mosquitoes.
Seeing - and sometimes smelling - this disaster was a little surprising in its magnitude, Saunders said.
'It's just wider-spread than you initially imagine,' he said. 'Luckily, it hasn't spread too far on the coast. It's bad enough, but it hasn't hit Mississippi or western Florida yet. It's going to have a long-term effect.'''
Contact Alicia Castelli at email@example.com.
NEWS ARTICLE from The Plain Dealer, 5-30-10, By Rich Exner
``BP's profit history and its Cleveland ties: Sunday's Numbers
$16.8 billion: 2009 profit for BP, which has been in the news lately because of the oil leak in the Gulf of Mexico. The 2009 profit was a drop from $21.7 billion in 2008.
$6.1 billion: First-quarter 2010 profit for BP, reported on April 27.
137 percent: Increase in first-quarter 2010 profit from the $2.6 billion profit reported for the first quarter of 2009.
1969: BP enters North America with major share of the Prudhoe Bay oil field in Alaska. This led to BP taking a major interest in Standard Oil of Ohio, headquartered in Cleveland.
1978: BP gains a majority interest in Standard Oil.
1988: BP buys Standard Oil.
1998: BP merges with Amoco and announces as part of the deal that its North American headquarters will move from Cleveland to Chicago.''
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