Wednesday, June 16, 2010

BP to spend US$20B paying back Gulf spill victims

White House sources say BP has agreed to budget US$20 billion for a fund that will be used to pay back the victims of the massive oil spill in the Gulf of Mexico.

The oil company agreed to the fund during a series of talks at the White House. The deal will be formally announced later today.

BP executives arrived in Washington on Wednesday morning, hours after U.S. President Barack Obama used a televised address to tell the American people he would make the company pay for the environmental damage its spill has wrought upon the Gulf of Mexico and parts of the U.S. coastline. He acknowledged that more damage will be done to the environment while the clean-up is completed, an effort that could take months or even years.

The U.S. president also said that a long-term Gulf Coast Restoration Plan will be drawn up by former Mississippi Gov. Ray Mabus, who will liaise with local communities affected by the disaster.

While some critics said Obama's Tuesday night speech was too tame, senior adviser David Axelrod said Americans "were not asking him to get angry. They were asking him to get results."

Prior to the meeting at the White House, BP said it shares Obama's goal of "shutting off the well as quickly as possible, cleaning up the oil and mitigating the impact on the people and environment of the Gulf Coast."

The company also announced Wednesday that it had begun burning off oil that it had collected from the undersea well.

White House in hot seat over oil crisis

Obama has been criticized for failing to get the disaster under control, nearly 60 days after the explosion on the Deepwater Horizon started spewing oil into the Gulf.

He has travelled to the Gulf on four separate occasions, but it has not been enough to avoid criticisms that he was too slow to act and is too reliant on BP to get it cleaned up.

Political analyst Mark Plotkin said the criticism against the U.S. president boils down to the speed of his response to the Gulf disaster.

"Why is it taking you so long -- six weeks -- to sit down with the (BP) guys who are in charge, you should have been doing this immediately," Plotkin told CTV's Canada AM from Washington on Wednesday morning.

A recent Associated Press-GfK poll showed that more than 52 per cent of Americans disapprove of the U.S. president's handling of the disaster. Additionally, some 56 per cent believe the White House's actions have had no effect at all.

The April 20 explosion on the BP-operated oil rig killed 11 people. Its blown-out well has since dumped as much as 116 million gallons of oil into the Gulf.

Out at sea, clean-up efforts were temporarily halted yesterday after lightning struck the Discoverer Enterprise -- a drill ship involved in the cleanup. A small fire resulted.

NBC's Kristen Dahlgren said the lightning strike on the ship, which was helping siphon oil, was just another setback in the ongoing crisis.

"It is now back up and running, they continue to siphon oil through that containment cap," Dahlgren told CTV's Canada AM from Florida's Pensacola Beach on Wednesday morning.

"But there were these five hours when the oil was once again flowing without stop into the Gulf of Mexico."

With files from The Associated Press

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