12:50 P.M. EDT
THE PRESIDENT: Good afternoon, everybody. Before I take your questions, I want to update the American people on the status of the BP oil spill -– a catastrophe that is causing tremendous hardship in the Gulf Coast, damaging a precious ecosystem, and one that led to the death of 11 workers who lost their lives in the initial explosion.
Yesterday, the federal government gave BP approval to move forward with a procedure known as a “top kill” to try to stop the leak. This involves plugging the well with densely packed mud to prevent any more oil from escaping. And given the complexity of this procedure and the depth of the leak, this procedure offers no guarantee of success. But we’re exploring any reasonable strategies to try and save the Gulf from a spill that may otherwise last until the relief wells are finished -– and that's a process that could take months.
The American people should know that from the moment this disaster began, the federal government has been in charge of the response effort. As far as I’m concerned, BP is responsible for this horrific disaster, and we will hold them fully accountable on behalf of the United States as well as the people and communities victimized by this tragedy. We will demand that they pay every dime they owe for the damage they’ve done and the painful losses that they’ve caused. And we will continue to take full advantage of the unique technology and expertise they have to help stop this leak.
But make no mistake: BP is operating at our direction. Every key decision and action they take must be approved by us in advance. I’ve designated Admiral Thad Allen -– who has nearly four decades of experience responding to such disasters -– as the National Incident Commander, and if he orders BP to do something to respond to this disaster, they are legally bound to do it. So, for example, when they said they would drill one relief well to stem this leak we demanded a backup and ordered them to drill two. And they are in the process of drilling two.