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Tuesday 23 May 2017

'Furious' Obama in blistering attack on BP over oil spill fiasco

Latest attempts to control spill risky

A brown pelican on the beach at East Grand Terre Island along the Louisiana coast. Photo: AP
A brown pelican on the beach at East Grand Terre Island along the Louisiana coast. Photo: AP

Matthew Daly in Washington

IN A BLISTERING attack on BP last night US president Barack Obama said that he is "furious" about the situation in the Gulf of Mexico.

Mr Obama went on to say that BP has not moved fast enough to respond to the massive oil spill.

Speaking on 'Larry King Live' he said that BP has felt his anger -- although he believed "venting and yelling at people" will not solve the problem.

Using his strongest language to date on the spill, the president said: "I am furious at this entire situation because this is an example where somebody didn't think through the consequences of their actions."

Mr Obama had not previously voiced sweeping criticisms of BP. But yesterday he said he had not seen the kind of rapid response from BP that he would like. Earlier his administration ordered a block on all new offshore drilling in the Gulf of Mexico.

An email from the Gulf Coast office of the Minerals Management Service says that "until further notice" no new drilling is being allowed in the Gulf, no matter the water depth.

In a recent letter, Gulf Coast senators urged Mr Obama to allow shallow-water drilling to continue, arguing that it is safer than deepwater exploration.

The senators said shutting down the roughly 60 shallow-water rigs in the Gulf could cost some $135m (€111m) and affect at least 5,000 jobs.

Mr Obama will return to the Louisiana coast today to assess the latest efforts, his third trip to the region since the disaster. It's his second visit in a week.

Meanwhile, in a further growing sign of America losing patience with oil giant BP, yesterday the White House said that the government is sending BP a $69m (€56.7m) bill for costs so far in its response to the Gulf of Mexico oil spill.

Responsible

Mr Obama's spokesman Robert Gibbs said the bill is the first to be sent to the oil company, which leased the oil rig that exploded on April 20 and later sank, sending millions of gallons of oil gushing into the Gulf.

The White House has said BP will be responsible for all costs associated with the spill.

And yesterday BP announced that it has finally sliced off a section of pipe with a giant shears in the latest bid to curtail the worst spill in US history.

However, the oil company also revealed that the cut was jagged and that therefore placing a cap over the leak will now be more difficult.

BP turned to the shears after a diamond-tipped saw became stuck in the pipe halfway through the job, yet another frustrating delay in effort to cap the six-week-old Gulf of Mexico spill.

But even if it works, BP engineers expect oil to continue leaking into the ocean.

BP chief executive Tony Hayward promised the company would clean up every drop of oil, and "restore the shoreline to its original state".

"We will be here for a very long time. We realise this is just the beginning," Mr Hayward said yesterday.

This latest attempt to control the spill is considered risky because slicing away a section of the 50-centimetre-wide riser removed a kink in the pipe, and could temporarily increase the flow of oil by as much as 20pc.

Mr Hayward conceded the attempt was risky, but said it was reduced when the pipe was cut away.

Video footage showed oil spewing uninterrupted out of the top of the blowout preventer, but it was unclear whether the flow had increased.

"I don't think we'll know until the containment cap is seated on there," he said. "We'll have to wait and see."

Irish Independent

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