Cabinet officials, Senators and a Governor presented a conga line of condemnation against British Petroleum today, while also bolstering the government's attempts to show that it was doing all it could to keep the oil company's feet to the fire.
Secretary of Homeland Security Janet Napolitano said federal officials are working to hold BP PLC responsible for cleaning up the growing Gulf of Mexico oil spill.Special Section: Disaster in the GulfBP Head: "We Are Here for the Long Haul" Adm. Allen: No Need for Gov't to Take Over Spill
Napolitano said Monday that she's heartsick about damage to Grand Isle, south of New Orleans, where thick oil has been washing up. She said the government will stay on BP until the cleanup gets done the right way.
Interior Secretary Ken Salazar said federal officials are not standing on the sidelines. Referncing BP, he said, "We will keep our boot on their neck until the job gets done."
The two Secretaries appeared today with Louisiana Governor Bobby Jindal and a delegation of Senators who viewed current efforts to stop the leak and protect the Gulf Coast.
Speaking at a press conference, they vented their anger toward BP, 34 days after the Deepwater Horizon rig explosion that killed 11 workers and unleashed a massive oil leak that still continues.
"BP not longer stands for British Petroleum. It stand for Beyond Patience," said Sen. Dick Durbin, D-Ill. "What we have heard from this administration and need to tell BP: Excuses don't count. You caused this mess, now stop the damage and clean up the mess. It's your responsibility.
"This administration will continue to put the pressure on BP to do what's right to clean up the mess and pay for every dollar of it - not the taxpayers, but British Petroleum," Durbin said.
Sen. Mary Landrieu, D-La., pledged the government would fight for "justice and fairness," and assured Louisianians and other Gulf Coast resident that BP would pay for lost livelihoods, whether it was a fisherman making $50,000 a year or a company earning $1 million.
She also said Salazar was working to prepare for a safer future for resource extraction, affecting oil and gas industry and fisheries in the Gulf.
Sen. David Vitter, R-La., spread his anger towards what he called "the greatest inadequacy of the federal response" with regard to dredging.
Vitter said that despite President Obama's pledge to act swiftly to restore barrier islands decimated by Hurricanes Katrina and Rita, "that commitment is now being broken because we cannot get so far a timely, clear answer from the Corps of Engineers and others on this emergency dredging barrier island plan. We need that land boom immediately to block oil from our marsh. And so I'm asking the president respectfully, again, we need that immediate positive answer."
Louisiana Gov. Bobby Jindal, R, reinforced the need to bolster the barrier islands, saying, "There is damage by not acting."
Sen. Jeff Bingaman, D-N.M., said that from his visit to the area he was able to see that "this is the nation's problem, not just Louisiana's problem, and the nation is pulling together and moving aggressively to solve it."
When flying over the spill area, Sen. Lisa Murkowski, R-Ak.,said, "I looked down at the ocean with great sadness . . .
Two decades after the Exxon Valdez spill, Murkowski described that tragedy as "a devastation that lives with you forever. And so to listen this afternoon to your fishermen, to your shrimpers and oystermen and to hear their fears and concerns, unfortunately it's like d?j? vu all over again."
She said we must not repeat the mistakes of the past, such as what the fishermen and their families who waited decades for compensation from Exxon experienced. "We want to work together to make sure that this claims process works fairly and efficiently and in a manner is as promised. We need to make sure those that are accountable, BP, are held accountable to the fullest extent."
Sen. Sheldon Whitehouse, D-R.I., said other Americans from across the country stand in solidarity with the coastal economy and coastal way of life in Louisiana and the Gulf. He called for continued action to the point where "the people of Louisiana can say, the water is clear, the leak is capped and we are made whole."
Speaking Monday afternoon on the Louisiana coast BP CEO Tony Hayward said he is "devastated" that oil from the company's leaking well has washed up on shore.
He said the company was fighting the battle on three fronts: "To eliminate the leak, to contain the oil on the surface, and to defend the shoreline." He said it was clear that the defense of the shoreline, at this point, "has not been successful. I feel devastated by that, absolutely gutted."
He said he shared the "enormous amounts of anger and frustration" on the parts of local communities. "This is something I never wanted to see. We are going to do everything in our power to deal with it as fast as we can and return the societies and communities of the Gulf Coast to normal as quickly as we can."
But Secretary of Homeland Security Janet Napolitano reiterated that it is BP who is on the line.
"BP is the responsible party," she said. "We are going to make sure that BP does what is necessary. If we need to put more supervisors in the Coast Guard in the field to get it done, we've already said, yep, we're going to do that."
Napolitano said she understood the frustration, anger and disappointment that is being felt, but said, "those feelings will need to be channeled in a way that recognizes that we are doing everything and will do everything we need to do to get BP to stop this leak and to pay these claims."
She said the best engineers in the world are working the problem, more than a thousand vessels are on the Gulf assisting efforts, and a million feet of boom have been deployed, with more on the way.
She also said the federal government is paying for the states to deploy National Guard troops.