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Grill Baby Grill: In Press Conference, Obama Says BP Will Pay, Pledges New Offshore Drilling Regulation

After weeks of watching as the BP oil spill off the Gulf Coast destroys local communities and wildlife, Obama is finally getting tough on offshore drilling—and BP's role in creating this disaster.

In a speech this afternoon, Obama ripped into BP, saying, "Make no mistake—BP is operating at our direction. Every key decision and action they take must be approved by us in advance." BP will "be paying a lot of damages, and we're going to stay on them on that," the President said. Obama also talked tough about the role of the Mineral Management Services (MMS) in the spill, offering up this jab at the agency: "For years there has been a scandalously close relationship between [oil industry and people who regulate them]." 

This is probably, Obama hinted, because of a culture during the Bush administration in which oil companies could get what they wanted without oversight. "When it comes to a specific [oil] company with its exploration plan...Congress mandated that only 30 days could be allocated before a yes or no answer was given. The habit, predating my administration, was that you automatically gave the environmental waiver because you couldn't complete the environmental evaluation in 30 days."

The President relieved some of the pressure on BP by putting it on the federal government instead. "The problem is not that...nobody's minding the store," he said. "Inevitably in something this big there will be places where things fall short. Our teams are authorized to direct BP. We've got the authority that we need."

Obama admitted that there have been some hiccups in the effort to contain the spill. "We can always do better," he said. The deployment of boom hasn't, according to Obama, been as nimble as it needs to be. At the same time, yesterday's "Top Kill" procedure was delayed because of questions about its potential effectiveness and risk. But ultimately, Obama believes that the U.S. is doing well with the spill. "I'm confident that people are going to look back and say that this administration was on top of what was going on," Obama said.

Since the oil industry has, according to Obama, effectively been allowed to regulate itself for so long, the government will suspend licenses for new wells for the next 6 months. "The Interior Dept has only 30 days to review proposal by oil companies. It's not enough time to conduct an environmental review. As a result, they're continually waived," Obama explained. Presumably, this temporary ban on licenses will give the government time to overhaul its regulatory procedures. 

Obama knows that the age of cheap and easy oil is over. "Extraction is more expensive and it's inherently going to be more risky. That's part of the reason you never heard me say 'drill baby drill'. Because we can't drill our way out of a problem," he said. In his speech, Obama expressed his concern for future generations impacted by our environmental mistakes. And yet, the President insists on continuing with offshore drilling, even as he realizes that it comes with significant risk. The possibility of future spills always looms.

 Read more about the Gulf Oil Spill

Got information on the spill you want to share? Email us at It'll go directly to the lead reporter and editor on these stories, and they'll assume all initial communication to be strictly confidential.

Ariel Schwartz can be reached on Twitter or by e-mail.


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  • Gary Sweeten

    Who are you trying to kid? Obama got tough? He stood around with his thumb in his mouth and did nothing. Then he comes out and acts macho. I will put my boot on the neck of BP. That is BS! Obama is the biggest fake I ever saw unless we count the Obama butt kissers who write about him in FC.

    Obama is still refusing to allow the states to build sand berms and stop the oil.

  • Robert Worstell

    More government oversight of disasters they can't really control - except by having more meetings and revising regulations. Obama was forced into having a press conference. And had to admit that while he's known "all about" this situation from "day one", he's done next to nothing except approve whatever BP proposed. All the congressional hearings and visits to the site have done zip, bubcuss, squat.

    He could have gotten Saudi oil tankers to suck up this stuff that was coming out - and they could have arrived in about 2 days. Ask Carville about the twenty-some solutions he could have had in place already. It's over a month and finally he's been forced to admit responsibility for the biggest envrionmental disaster in history. To hell with Bush - what is this guy doing? Nada, nothing, zilch. No better than his predecessor handled his own "Katrina".

    Instead, he's on his second vacation since this BP rig explosion. It's not the oil, it's how we handle it. And our handling has been pretty poor. Private companies and local parrish's are doing more to sort this out than the "great Federal government".

    At least they could get out of the way with their Army corps of engineers who can't approve a sand berm to keep the oil out of the wetlands.

    Oh - and did you hear that hurricane season starts next month?

  • Chris Reich

    Clean coal. Clean oil. Foolishness.

    The cost of this disaster could have put our (U.S.) solar on the map. I think we need to strangle the oil supply. No more drilling permits. None.

    Stop wasting oil. Stop packaging everything in excess amounts of oil based plastics.

    We can do this.

    Chris Reich