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This is Obama’s first press conference since his health care push on July 22, 2009 — a gap attributed to the fragmentation of news media. There’s an oil liability hearing going on now too, which is currently in recess.
OBAMA COMES ON: He says the federal government has been in control of this disaster from day one (i.e. this is not his Katrina).
Says BP is ALREADY following his orders on the clean-up. When BP said it was drilling one relief well, Obama says, the White House told them to drill multiple wells.
Government has 20,000 people in the region working around the clock to clean-up oil.
“Americans can help by continuing to visit the communities of the Gulf Coast.” Obama says all but three Gulf beaches are clean and open.
“MMS has been plagued by corruption for years… underscored by recent… appalling… report.”
“Aggressive new operating standards and requirements for offshore drilling”
- Suspends planned grant of two Alaska lease extensions
- Cancels pending several lease sales
- Suspends new deepwater well permits for 6 months
- Suspends activity on 33 deepwater wells currently drilled in GOM
“Tragedy underscores urgent need for this nation to develop clean and renewable sources of energy.” Calls this a “wakeup call” to catch up to clean energy development by countries like China.
Q: Why more than five weeks into the disaster is BP NOT following orders on things like dispersants; AND has your personal engagement been enough?
A: “This has been our highest priority since this crisis occurred.”
Regarding relationship with BP: “The US Gov. has always been in charge of making sure that the response was appropriate” while BP is the responsible party. “When it comes to stopping the leak, the federal government does not possess superior technology to BP.” “When it comes to what’s been happening on the surface, we’ve been much more involved.”
Regarding Top Kill: The POTUS insisted on federal oversight for this unprecedented operation. That’s why clearance for Top Kill went through Coast Guard Admiral Thad Allen.
Q: Have you really done everything you can do? Cites plans to build a barrier and plans to siphon surface oil; declined offers of help from abroad.
A: Re Jindal’s barrier island idea, Obama turned to Army Corps of Engineers. Re foreign aid offers, Obama had to evaluate whether aid would actually contribute to the effort.
Q: “Why not ask BP simply to entirely step aside on the onshore stuff… Can you respond to all the Katrina comparisons?“
A: “I’ll leave it to you guys to make all those comparisons.”
“BP is not off running around doing whatever it wants with nobody minding the store.” Unlike Congress, Obama is not throwing punches at BP. Here’s the riddle: Obama needs to claim oversight of BP in order to claim he’s been involved from day one… But that means an attack on BP is an attack on Obama.
Obama: It is legitimate to question whether it’s in BP’s interest to minimize the extent of the damage… “But I’m not contradicting my prior point that people were working as hard as they could.”
On the flow estimates, being high or low didn’t matter to the effort to stop the spill, so the initial 5,000 gallon estimate wasn’t a problem.
Q: Helen Thomas: When are we going to out of Afghanistan? And don’t give us this Bushism about how they’ll come here.
A: Helen, because we had to get Al-Qaeda… this is the last thing he needs to be defending right now. Spending a lot of time on this.
Obama is explaining that there is a clear strategy to deal with this, and has explained that there is a long term plan for a draw down. It is not a specific or convincing answer.
Obama is now being forced to defend his support for offshore oil production, just weeks before the spill. He is defending his position that the U.S. is not prepared for a complete switch from oil.
Pres. Obama noted that his belief in offshore oil drilling was based upon its previously safe record. Now that record is in question and must be investigated further.
Obama is now discussing the resignation of Mrs. Birbaum from the administration’s mineral authority, which he denies was a firing. Her resignation is connected to new rules she hoped to institute to prevent disasters like Deepwater Horizon, according to the questioning NY Times reporter.
Obama is saying he was never overly enthusiastic about off shore oil drilling, because of the dangers of the projects. He says this is why he never said “Drill Baby Drill,” a apparent political shot at Republican Sarah Palin.
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