President Barack Obama told a military audience in Pensacola Tuesday that the administration will do everything it can to deal with the Deepwater Horizon oil spill including calling in the military if necessary. Obama wrapped up a two-day tour of Gulf states affected by the ongoing BP oil spill.
On Tuesday night, he said in an Oval Office address that he is asking Navy Secretary Ray Mabus to develop a Gulf Coast restoration plan developed by states and local communities. He also called for a national mission towards clean energy and energy efficiency but he offered no policy details.
Drilling opponent Kim Ross, who organized a protest last month that attracted about 200 people, said she would have liked to have heard the president say he wants to end offshore oil drilling and production. She gathered with about 10 other drilling opponents in a Tallahassee bar.
“I love that he is addressing renewable energy and I like that he compared this to getting to the Moon,” Ross said. “I didn’t see a full-fledged commitment to moving forward and not looking back.”
At the Pensacola Naval Air Station, Obama called the spill “an unprecedented environmental disaster,” according to a White House transcript. “But we’re going to continue to meet it with an unprecedented federal response and recovery effort — the largest in our nation’s history,” he said. “This is an assault on our shores and we’re going to fight back with everything we’ve got. And that includes mobilizing resources of the greatest military in the world.”
Obama said sailors, the Marines and Army soldiers have been helping in the cleanup and that 17,500 National Guardsmen are ready if the governors need them. The Coast Guard, a military branch, already is helping lead the response.
But U. S. Sen. Bill Nelson, D-Melbourne, has called for more Pentagon involvement. “It’s the best command-and-control structure in the world,” Nelson told MSNBC anchor Contessa Brewer early Tuesday afternoon. He said Florida officials were not told earlier this month when oil moved into Florida waters. “That (communication) is improving and I think that is what the president was hinting at,” Nelson said. “And I think we will hear more of that tonight.”
Nelson also said an independent third party is needed to pay administer claims for BP. “These claims are going to go on for years and years,” Nelson said. “These are legitimate claims.”
Obama on Tuesday also said Coast Guard Admiral Thad Allen has appointed individual incident commanders in each of the states, including Florida. He also said his administration will set up an incident command team in Tallahassee in addition to those now established in Houma, La. and Mobile, Ala.
The president’s speech on the spill came the same day that a federal team of scientists estimated the flow from the oil well at between 1.4 million gallons and 2.5 million gallons per day, with about 750,000 gallons now being captured daily by BP. The new leak rate is at least five times more than was estimated by BP and the Coast Guard in April. BP is taking steps to capture more oil but could not contain the full amount until mid-July, according to the U. S. Department of the Interior.
To view an archive of the president’s oval office address, go to thephoenixsun.com .
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