U.S. disaster chief tempers criticism of BP

By Steve Holland

WASHINGTON (BestGrowthStock) – The U.S. response chief for the Gulf of Mexico oil spill differed on Monday with Interior Secretary Ken Salazar on BP Plc’s handling of the massive leak and said the company must keep working on the crisis.

Coast Guard Admiral Thad Allen spoke at the White House a day after Salazar bitterly complained that “deadline after deadline has been missed” by BP and that he did not have complete confidence the company knew what it was doing.

Salazar threatened on Sunday to push BP “out of the way” if it did not do enough to stop the leak.

Allen made clear the federal government had no choice but to depend on BP’s technology and expertise to plug the leak, which has been spewing oil into the Gulf for 35 days in a row from a mile-deep gusher.

“Well, to push BP out of the way would raise a question, to replace them with what?” Allen said.

“They are pressing ahead. We are overseeing them. They’re exhausting every technical means possible to deal with that leak,” Allen said.

President Barack Obama is grappling with the gravest U.S. environmental crisis since the 1989 Exxon Valdez oil spill, and the American people are divided as to how good a job he is doing.

A CNN/Opinion Research Corp poll found 46 percent of those surveyed approved of his handling of the spill, compared to 51 percent who did not approve.

Obama is also trying to contain the emotions of some on his team, frustrated that every effort to plug the leak has failed. Under a worst-case scenario, it could take until August to fully stop it, once a relief well is drilled.

Allen expressed an understanding of BP’s predicament, operating in the murky depths 5,000 feet below the ocean surface. But he said Salazar was right to press for action.

“I think he’s probably exhibiting the immense amount of frustration we all feel that we need to keep pressure on and make sure that they’re accountable in doing their jobs, because as it stands right now, at least in my opinion, the means of production is in the hands of BP. They just need to do their job,” Allen said.

Asked if there was a blame game going on, Allen said: “If there is, I’m not playing it.”

Frustrations are rising in the Gulf region. Louisiana Governor Bobby Jindal demanded more help from the federal government to protect his state’s fragile coastline.

The White House said Obama spoke by phone with Jindal as well as Governor Haley Barbour of Mississippi, Governor Charlie Crist of Florida and Governor Bob Riley of Alabama to underscore his commitment to a close collaboration with state and local governments on the spill.

“The president reiterated the administration’s sense of urgency for dealing with the oil spill,” a White House statement said.

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(Additional reporting by Jeff Mason; Editing by Cynthia Osterman)

U.S. disaster chief tempers criticism of BP