Video: Obama: BP had better not nickel-and-dime

  1. Closed captioning of: Obama: BP had better not nickel-and-dime

    >>> its 50th day and our exclusive interview with president obama . we sat down on monday before his commencement peach at a high school in kalamazoo, michigan and i began by asking the president if the oil spill in the gulf has made this the toughest point in his presidency to date.

    >> this is tough, no doubt about it, because when you watch television or you go down to the gulf and you see birds covered in oil and you talk to fishermen who are on the verge of tears, big, tough guys, but their lifld livelihoods are being smothered by this oil coming into thee eest u wares and marshes, it gets you frustrated. it has not reduced my confidence that our trajectory is right. we have to keep on moving . it is going to be tough but we'll get through it.

    >> do you feel at this stage 50 days into this your administration has been damaged by this oil spill ?

    >> no. first of all, i'm not concerned about my politics right now. what i'm concerned about is what's happening down in the gulf and i guarantee you the folks in the gulf have been damaged by this oil spill . and livelihoods are at stake. this is the largest federal response to an environmental disaster in history. from day one we understood that this was going to be a major disaster . we have put unprecedented resources to deal with it.

    >> then why do you think there is so much frustration aimed not only at bp right now but at your administration ? there are people who are starting to wonder outloud if the oil spill in the gulf could do to you what katrina did to president bush , or even what the iran hostage situation did to president carter.

    >> you know, i have to tell you, some of this is just the nature of the 24-hour news cycle. you've got a camera showing oil spilling out in the gulf and people are understandably frustrated and they're upset. and they have every right to be. but here's what i can say. that we have responded with unprecedented resources and when you look at what most of the critics say, matt, and you you ask them, specifically, what is it that the administration could or should have done differently that would have an impact on whether or not oil was hitting shore, you're met with silence. and the fact of the matter is there has not been an idea that is mentioned out there by any of the critics that we haven't evaluated and if it was going to work, we would have done it. but it happened under my watch that you still have these oil rigs out there that we thought could deal with this kind of situation and they haven't been able to deal with it.

    >> a day or so after that oil rig sank i spoke to rear admiral mary landry of the coast guard who was speaking on behalf of the administration . i asked her, we're seeing an oil slick in the middle of the water and she said there is no evidence that that's coming from this wellhead, that's residual oil coming from the rig itself. a day later she echoed those same comments. was the administration misled in your opinion? were you relying too much on information from bp , and from the start did bp try to downplay the situation?

    >> well, here's what i think happened. initially the thinking was that in fact the rig had sunk but the blow-out preventers had shut down the well because that's what they were supposed do. so the anticipation was mayor 1,000 barrels might be leaking a day but this is not going to be a monumental spill. as soon as people understood the blow-out preventers weren't working, that the valves that were supposed to shut down in the event of a blow-out like this had not functioned properly, then i think people understood right then that this was going to be a significant emergency. in terms of our relationship with bp , our general attitude has been that they have an incentive to shut this thing down because it is going to cost them money and i am going to stay on them if it is the last thing i've done in this administration --

    >> have you spoken directly to tony hayward , the ceo of bp ?

    >> i have not spoken to him directly. here's my reason -- my experience is when you talk to a guy like bp 's ceo, he's going to say all the right things to me. i'm not interested in words. i'm interested in actions. and we are communicating to him every single day exactly what we expect of him. and what we expect of that administration .

    >> in all due respect, that feels strange to me, that here we've got the ceo of a company that's responsible for the worst environmental disaster in u.s. history , and i think i'm just curious why you wouldn't pick up the phone and in some ways just give him a piece of your mind.

    >> well, look. this has been the main critique of the administration is giving a piece of my mind to these guys. look, i would love to vent. i would love to just shout and holler because i'm thinking about this day in, day out. but my main job is to solve the problem.

    >> to solve the problem you have to have a reliable partner. let me read you some of the things that mr. hayward has said over the course of this disaster. he said the gulf of mexico is a big ocean. the amount and volume of oil and dispersant we're putting in is tiny in relation to the total water value. the impact of this environmental disaster is likely to be very modest. he says there's no one who wants this to end more than i do, i'd like my life back.

    >> well, i think --

    >> family members of those 11 people who died on the rig and the people whose lives are going to be changed for years want their lives back, too. he doesn't work for you. but if he did, would you want him out?

    >> he wouldn't be working for me. after any of those statements. first of all, we're going to have to find out why this thing went in the first place and the fact of the matter is that there's going to be a thorough review and i don't want to prejudge it. but the initial reports indicate that there may be situations in which not only human error was involved, but you also saw some corner-cutting in terms of safety and that bp is a multi-billion dollar corporation. it's talking about paying $10.5 billion in dividends just for this quarter.

    >> right.

    >> we are going to have to make sure that not only do they shut down the cap, we are not only going to have to make sure any deep well drilling process that is out there is in fact failsafe and oil companies know what they're doing, but we also have to make sure that every single person who's been affected by this is properly compensated and made whole. when i went down --

    >> can bp do all that?

    >> absolutely they can afford it. if i start seeing bp nickel and diming folks down there, then they are going to have for answer to us.

    >> we've heard time and time again throughout this crisis as bp has tried, and failed, with all their fixes that this technology is untested at this depth. and it just raises a question, if this is where we're drilling for oil at 4,000 and 5,000 feet under the surface of the ocean, where is the oversight in all that? where are they allowed to drill there if the worst case scenario method to prevent disaster are tested at that depth. it doesn't help to test them at that feet.

    >> when it comes to how we were operating in overseeing and taking the word of the oil industry generally -- not just bp in terms of the failsafe nature of what they could do, i think we have to completely review that. i've assigned this bipartisan commission, i want them to report back to me because you obviously cannot take the word of oil companies when they say they've got a bunch of redundancy and back-up plans when something like this happens and it turns out they have no idea what they're doing.

    >> even as the oil is spewing into the gulf, would you consider halting all drilling below a certain depth, right now?

    >> keep in mind what's happened. first of all, we've already instituted moratorium --

    >> on new drilling.

    >> on new drilling. the production wells that are already pumping oil, those don't seem to be the problem. the problem has to do with actually drilling and starting a new well. so we've put a moratorium on new wells. shallow wells aren't a problem because the risers essentially come up above the water. if something like this happened in a shallow water well, then folks would just get up on the platform and they would start fixing it and it would be shut down fairly quickly. what we don't have right now is an assurance that in these incredible depths, a mile down, and then they're drilling another three miles down to get to oil, that we can actually handle a crisis like this.

    >> have you allowed yourself to even imagine what the gulf region will look like if oil continues to spew until august, what it will smell like, what the economic situation will be like down there?

    >> i have. and here's what i'll say. this is going to be a mess. it already is. but i've been down there and the people are resilient and these eco systems are more resilient than i think we anticipate right now if we act swiftly, if we act seriously, there are going to be marshes, for example, where the oil goes in, and the sea life that's there is decimated for a season. maybe two. but potentially we can preserve those estuaries and marshes so that three years from now, things have come back, things have bounced back.

    >> critics are now talking about your style which is the first time i've heard that in a long time. they're saying here is a guy who likes to be known as cool and calm and collected, and this isn't the time for cool, calm and collected. this is not the time to meet with experts and advisors, this is a time to spend more time in the gulf and -- i never thought i'd say this to a president, but kick some butt. and i don't mean it to be funny.

    >> no, and i understand. and here's what i'm going to push back hard on this. because i think that this is a -- just an idea that the media's run with. i was down a month ago before most of these talking heads were even paying attention to the gulf. a month ago i was meeting with fishermen down there standing in the rain talking about what a potential crisis this could be. and i don't sit around just talking to experts because this is a college seminar. we talk to these folks because they potentially have the best answers so i know whose ass to kick. right? so, you know, this is not theater. most of the decisions that i make on a day to day basis i make because i have gathered the best information possible in very difficult situations and my job is to figure out how can i move the federal government , the private sector, all the various players who are involved to perform some very, very difficult tasks. and i don't always have time to perform for the benefit the cable shows. what i do have is dedication and commitment to make sure that the people who are actually being affected by this are going to get the best possible service from me. and as long as i'm president, that's the approach that i'm going to take to this job.

    >> he's clearly heard the criticism.

    >> frustrate bid it as well.

    >> reacting very strongly to it. i think his term "this is not theater" is a very important one. and i wonder if you're going to hear a lot more of this type of emotion from the president from this day forward.

    >> i think he probably liked this opportunity to show that side of him because so many people had said that in fact he wasn't showing any emotion. obvious tli bothers him tremendously.

    >>> we are going to hear more from president obama in our next half-hour.

    >>> moving on, there has been staff and news service reports
updated 6/8/2010 8:36:37 PM ET 2010-06-09T00:36:37

President Barack Obama says he would have fired BP's CEO Tony Hayward over controversial comments downplaying the Gulf oil spill — if the executive had been working for him.

In an interview with Matt Lauer on NBC's TODAY broadcast Tuesday, the president added his voice to calls for Hayward's resignation amid claims from a former EPA lawyer that BP is a "recurring environmental criminal."

Some 25 million to 39 million gallons of oil are estimated to have gone into the Gulf of Mexico since the Deepwater Horizon rig exploded on April 20, killing 11 workers.

The BP executive last month complained about the amount of time he is spending dealing with the disaster, saying "I would like my life back," and also played down the spill's effect. The Gulf was "a big ocean," he said, adding "the environmental impact of this disaster is likely to be very, very modest."

"He wouldn't be working for me after any of those statements," said Obama, who will be heading back to the Gulf next week for his fourth trip since the disaster began 50 days ago.

The president also defended not having spoken to Hayward.

"I have not spoken to him directly," he told Lauer. "Here's the reason. Because my experience is, when you talk to a guy like a BP CEO, he's gonna say all the right things to me. I'm not interested in words. I'm interested in actions."

Hayward will make his first appearance on Capitol Hill since the catastrophic Gulf oil spill when he testifies before a congressional committee on June 17. He is scheduled to appear at a House Energy and Commerce oversight and investigations subcommittee hearing on the disaster.

'Whose ass to kick'
Obama also defended himself against criticism about his handling the disaster, saying he had been in the Gulf a month ago before "most of these talking heads were even paying attention."

"I don't sit around just talking to experts because this is a college seminar," the president added. "We talk to these folks because they potentially have the best answers, so I know whose ass to kick."

The White House said that Obama would return to the Gulf next Monday and Tuesday, touring damage in Mississippi, Alabama and Florida — three states whose shores and economies are being affected by the worst environmental disaster in U.S. history.

The trip will be Obama's fourth to the region since the deep-sea leak began April 20.

Meanwhile, House Speaker Nancy Pelosi told her committee chairmen to produce legislation by July 4 to cope with the spill and prevent future environmental disasters.

The chairman of the House Energy and Commerce Committee, which is investigating the rig explosion, asked the U.S. Chemical Safety Board to do the same. In a letter Tuesday from the chairman, Rep. Henry Waxman, D-Calif., and Bart Stupak, D-Mich., chairman of the oversight and investigations subcommittee, the lawmakers asked the board to consider, among other things, the corporate safety culture of BP; what role cost-cutting may have been involved in well design and testing; BP's oversight of subcontractors, and whether any parallels could be drawn between the causes of the Deepwater Horizon blast and a 2005 BP Texas City refinery explosion that killed 15 people.

On the Senate side, Environment and Public Works Committee Chairwoman Barbara Boxer, D- Calif., and Bill Nelson, D-Fla., requested that BP "provide full access to all video" related to the spill. The panel received 12 minutes of new high resolution video Tuesday from BP.

Video: Disaster in the Gulf: Day 50 "Having an accurate flow rate from the spill is absolutely critical to establishing a complete scientific record, planning an adequate response, determining the appropriate fines and penalties under federal law, and ensuring a full assessment of damages," the senators said in the letter to BP Chairman and President Lamar McKay.

Citing reported discrepancies in flow rate estimates, they added, "scientists and other experts need unfiltered access to all data and video record, including a complete searchable record of all video files."

In the interview, Obama also acknowledged that the situation for residents of the Gulf was difficult, but said he was confident that the country and the region would recover.

"When you watch television or you go down to the Gulf and you see birds covered in oil, and you talk to fishermen who are on the verge of tears, big tough guys ... their livelihoods are being smothered by this oil, it gets you frustrated," he told Lauer.

Video: Oil's toll on wildlife grows "But it has not reduced my confidence that our trajectory is right. We've just got to keep on moving," he said, adding: "It's gonna be tough, but we're gonna get through it."

The president's remarks were part of a stepped-up White House effort to show Obama is actively engaged in dealing with the spill and to distance itself from the London-based oil giant, formerly known as British Petroleum. Polls have shown a majority of Americans believe Obama has handled the crisis poorly.

The administration has stopped using the same figures as BP any more for how much oil is flowing from the blown-out well and how much is being captured.

Collecting oil
BP said on Tuesday it had collected 14,800 barrels of oil from the leaking well on Monday, 33 percent higher than the amount collected on Sunday and the highest capture rate since it installed a new system last week to contain the spill.

Video: Oil-regulation ‘scandal’ The latest attempt involves a containment cap placed on top of the gushing pipe on the ocean floor. The total amount of oil collected over four days was about 42,500 barrels, BP said

Coast Guard Adm. Thad Allen, the top U.S. official overseeing the cleanup effort, said on Monday neither BP nor the government knew just how much oil was gushing out of the well. "That's the big unknown right now," he said.

BP has given conservative estimates of the oil flow that have been ridiculed by scientists and U.S. lawmakers. Even the government's much higher estimates of 12,000-19,000 barrels a day seemed on the low side after Allen said the company planned to double its collection of oil from the well to 20,000 barrels every day.

Show us your favorite Gulf beachAllen said on Tuesday U.S. scientists would present revised estimates later this week or early next week.

BP said will get rid of some of the oil being recaptured from a spill by burning it off.

BP spokesman Max McGahan said the rig carrying the burner will be moved away from the main leak site so flames and heat do not endanger other vessels.

Another BP spokesman, Robert Wine, said the company will also boost capacity by bringing in a floating platform it believes can process most of the flow.

Meanwhile, the Washington Post reported Tuesday that a series of internal investigations over the past decade had found BP repeatedly disregarded safety and environmental rules.

The Post article, by nonprofit journalism organization ProPublica, said a series of accidents before the explosion on Deepwater Horizon meant BP faced a possible ban on new U.S. drilling leases and federal contracting, citing former Environmental Protection Agency officials.

"They are a recurring environmental criminal and they do not follow U.S. health safety and environmental policy," said Jeanne Pascal, a former EPA lawyer who led its BP investigations, told ProPublica.

In 1999, BP pleaded guilty to illegal dumping at an offshore drilling field in Alaska, the article reported. To avoid a contract cancellation with the federal government, the company agreed to a five-year probationary plan with the EPA.

Less than a year later, employees complained to an independent arbitrator that the company was letting equipment and critical safety systems languish at its Greater Prudhoe Bay drilling field, the article said.

Independent experts hired by BP identified systemic problems in maintenance and inspections. They warned BP that it faced a "fundamental culture of mistrust" by its workers.

The experts' report said that "unacceptable" maintenance backlogs ballooned as BP tried to sustain profits despite declining production, the ProPublica article said.

Hayward become chief executive in 2007 and has made commitments to reform the company.

Toby Odone, a company spokesman, told ProPublica that the notion that BP has ongoing problems addressing worker concerns was "essentially groundless."

He said under Hayward the company had worked to ensure there were "responsible operations at every BP operation." staff, Reuters and The Associated Press contributed to this story.


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