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April 29 White House Press Briefing

By The White House, The White House - April 29, 2010

The White House

Office of the Press Secretary

PRESS BRIEFINGBY PRESS SECRETARY ROBERT GIBBS,SECRETARY OF THE DEPARTMENT OF HOMELAND SECURITYJANET NAPOLITANO,DEPUTY SECRETARY OF THE DEPARTMENT OF INTERIORDAVID HAYES,ENVIRONMENTAL PROTECTION AGENCY ADMINISTRATORLISA JACKSON,ASSISTANT TO THE PRESIDENT FOR ENERGY AND CLIMATE CHANGECAROL BROWNER,REAR ADMIRAL OF THE U.S. COAST GUARDSALLY BRICE-O’HARA,AND ADMINISTRATOR OF THE NATIONAL OCEANIC AND ATMOSPHERIC ASSOCIATION DR. JANE LUBCHENCO

12:07 P.M. EDT

MR. GIBBS:  Good afternoon.  This is not my attempt to put more people on stage than are in the audience, but we might well succeed by the time this is over.

I am going to -- I’ve got a few remarks on what the President has been working on on the BP oil spill, but I wanted to -- we’ve got several people here at the briefing to give you an update on where we are.

Our Homeland Security Secretary will give us an update on the overall situation.  Rear Admiral Sally Brice-O’Hara will give us some details on the response on the ground and the water to the spill.  Deputy Secretary of the Interior David Hayes will give us an update on the joint investigation and on the pressure on industry to clean up the spill.  Secretary Salazar is at the BP command center currently in Houston.

EPA Administrator Lisa Jackson will give us an update on air monitoring and preparations for the spill reaching the shore.  We also have Assistant to the President for Energy and Climate Carol Browner here also to answer some questions if need be.

So let me start with a few words of the President’s involvement.  The President has been actively following the BP oil spill in the Gulf of Mexico, receiving multiple updates, and consulting on the response since the incident occurred.  The President started his daily intelligence briefing in the Oval Office this morning with an update, and last night on board Air Force One, on the way back to Washington, the President was briefed on the new information regarding the additional breach.

The President urged, out of an abundance of caution and mindful of the new information, that we must position resources to continue to aggressively confront this incident.  Following that, Rear Admiral Landry announced that while BP is ultimately responsible, the administration will continue to be aggressive in our response, and we will use all available resources, possibly including those at the Department of Defense, to see if there are technologies that might be used that surpass the capabilities of the commercial and private sector.

Again, in accordance with the 1990 Oil Pollution Act, passed after the Exxon Valdez, BP, as the responsible party, is required to fund the cost of the response and cleanup operations, and they are doing so.

The President has also asked that Homeland Security Secretary Napolitano, Interior Secretary Salazar, and EPA Administrator Jackson go to the Gulf Coast to ensure that BP and the entire government is doing everything possible to respond to this incident.

In addition, the President has directed responding agencies to devote every resource to not only respond to this incident but to determine its cause.  Earlier this week, Secretary Napolitano and Secretary Salazar laid out the next steps for that investigation.

We have a lot of folks up here.  We’ve got a couple of slides that we will put up.  This is the satellite picture as of 6:00 a.m. this morning.  You see where the BP Deepwater Horizon was and the area that we’re monitoring.

So, with that, let me turn this over to Secretary Napolitano.

SECRETARY NAPOLITANO:  Well, thank you.  I’d like today to update you with the latest information about the BP oil spill, the steps BP is taking to minimize the environmental and other risks of this incident.

Last night BP alerted us to additional oil leaking from their deep underwater well.  They are working, with our support, to estimate the size of this breach. 

As has just been mentioned, the President has urged, out of an abundance of caution and mindful of new and evolving information, that we must position resources to continue to confront this spill.

That being said, we have been anticipating and planning, and today I will be designating that this is a spill of national significance.  What that means is that we can now draw down assets from across the country, other coastal areas, by way of example; that we will have a centralized communications because the spill is now crossing different regions.

In addition to the command center that we have operational in Robert, Louisiana, we are opening a second command center in Mobile, Alabama, for the BP spill.

As was mentioned, as well as part of our oversight of the response, I will be going to the Gulf Coast tomorrow along with Secretary Salazar and EPA Administrator Jackson to inspect ongoing operations.  We remain focused on continued oversight.  We’ll be taking a very close look at efforts underway, particularly to minimize the environmental risks in the area affected by the leaking oil. 

We’ll be meeting with other federal, state and local officials deployed to the area and helping in the response effort, and we will be meeting again with BP officials to discuss cleanup planning and operations.

As the President and the law have made clear, BP is the responsible party and is required to fund the costs of the response and cleanup operations.  But our visit to Louisiana and the affected areas tomorrow will also help inform our investigation into the causes of this explosion which left 11 workers missing, three critically injured in addition to the ongoing oil spill.

Meanwhile, a coordinated group of federal partners, including the Departments of Homeland Security, Defense, Interior and the EPA, continues to work and oversee BP’s deployment of a combination of tactics above water, below water, dozens of miles offshore, as well as closer to coastal areas. 

As you know, yesterday BP began a controlled burn designed to remove large quantities of oil from the open water in an effort to protect shoreline and marine and other wildlife.  The trapped oil was consumed in about 28 minutes. 

BP continues to use chemical dispersants, which, along with natural dispersions of oil, will address a large portion of the slick.  Nearly 100,000 gallons of dispersant have been used today.

Among other response activities are on-water skimming, subsurface wellhead operations, continued efforts to see if they can get that shut-off valve to close, and significant booming efforts underway to protect vital shoreline.

Right now at least 174,000 feet of boom have been deployed, and other boom will be deployed at six staging areas.  And they are ready to be deployed right now.

In addition, approximately 1,100 total personnel are currently working the spill.  And 685,000 gallons of oily water have been collected so far, using nearly 50 vessels and multiple aircraft who are engaged in the response.

We will continue to push BP to engage in the strongest response possible.  We will continue to oversee their efforts, to add to those efforts where we deem necessary, and to ensure, again, that under the law, that the taxpayers of the United States ultimately are reimbursed for those efforts.

But that is not the key focus, I must say, right now.  Our key focus is making sure that people know what is going on, they understand what relief efforts are underway, what the extent of the response is, what we know, what we don’t know about this incident, and how we intend to move forward.

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