UPDATE 2-White House keeps up heat on BP over oil spill

* Adds to White House heat on BP over spill

* Administration denounces talk of $75 million cap
(Adds more quotes, background)

By Patricia Zengerle

WASHINGTON, May 15 (BestGrowthStock) – Top Obama administration
officials demanded “immediate public clarification” from BP Plc
(BP.L: ) about paying for the Gulf of Mexico oil spill in a
letter released on Saturday, as the White House kept up heat on
the British energy giant over the environmental disaster.

“The public has a right to a clear understanding of BP’s
commitment to redress all of the damage that has occurred or
that will occur in the future as a result of the oil spill,”
Obama’s Interior Secretary Ken Salazar and Homeland Security
Secretary Janet Napolitano wrote in a letter to BP chief
executive Tony Hayward.

“Therefore, in the event that our understanding is
inaccurate, we request immediate public clarification of BP’s
true intentions,” Salazar and Napolitano said in the letter,
dated May 14.

Crude oil is gushing unchecked from BP’s blown-out offshore
well a mile (1.6 km) deep on the floor of the Gulf and the
company has yet to figure out a way to stem the flow.

The spill might prove to be one of the most devastating
environmental disasters the United States has ever faced,
Salazar and Napolitano wrote in the letter, released to the
media on Saturday and dated Friday, the same day an angry
President Barack Obama lashed out at oil industry executives
over their response to the calamity. [ID:nN14176111]

There have been concerns about a current U.S. law that
limits energy companies’ liability for lost business and local
tax revenues from oil spills to $75 million.

U.S. lawmakers are seeking to raise the maximum amount of
money BP could be required to dole out for economic losses
caused by the spill to $10 billion.

Estimates vary widely, but analysts say the total bill from
the spill could easily reach into the billions of dollars.

SEEKING TO AVOID POLITICAL FALLOUT

Salazar and Napolitano cited repeated statements by company
executives that BP was taking responsibility for the spill and
would cover spill-related costs.

“Based on these statements, we understand that BP will not
in any way seek to rely on the potential $75 million statutory
cap to refuse to provide compensation to any individuals or
others harmed by the oil spill,” they wrote.

In the aftermath of the spill, the Obama administration was
faulted by some over the speed of its response, with a few
critics drawing comparisons to his predecessor George W. Bush’s
slow response to the Hurricane Katrina in 2005, which
devastated a swath of the U.S. Gulf coast.

The White House rejects such criticism, but as the leak
begins to move ashore, it wants to head off any political
fallout, especially with congressional elections looming in
November.

Administration officials also want the company involved,
not U.S. taxpayers, to fund the cost of the cleanup.

In an interview published in a British newspaper on Friday,
BP Chief Executive Tony Hayward appeared to play down the
spill.

“The Gulf of Mexico is a very big ocean. The amount of
volume of oil and dispersant that we are putting into it is
tiny in relation to the total volume of water,” Hayward was
quoted as saying in Britain’s Guardian newspaper.

Stock Market Money

(Editing by Doina Chiacu)

UPDATE 2-White House keeps up heat on BP over oil spill