Louisiana // The US administration will "keep the boot on the neck of British Petroleum" over the huge Gulf of Mexico oil spill, said Ken Salazar, the interior secretary. His comments left the UK-based company under no illusions about the growing political and economic stakes as it tries to contain a potentially catastrophic oil leak.
Mr Salazar's comments came before he and Janet Napolitano, the secretary of homeland security, were to meet BP executives in Washington yesterday to press for compensation and reimbursement for individual and government costs related to the 200,000-gallon-a-day leak. The leak began with the sinking of the Deepwater Horizon rig. BP said its response effort was "the largest ever mobilised anywhere in the world".
Government and local discontent with the company has grown since the rig exploded on April 20 and sank two days later, leaving 11 people missing and presumed dead. Officials and residents in four southern US states - Louisiana, Mississippi, Alabama and Florida - were on high alert, fearing the enormous slick would reach their shores. Containment operations were hampered in recent days by strong winds. BP, meanwhile, was trying several methods to cut the flow of oil from the well. It was preparing to install a shut-off valve on one of the three leaks that are some 1,500 metres below the surface.
In southern Louisiana, it was also building a concrete dome to sink on to the leaking well in an operation previously untested in such deep waters. BP is liable for all costs, running at US$6 million (Dh22m) a day, and the total bill could run to $14 billion including compensation, analysts say. "BP is responsible for this leak - BP will be paying the bill," said the US President Barack Obama, who met officials and local fishermen during a visit to the coastal town of Venice, Louisiana, on Sunday.
Mr Obama made it clear that US authorities would not be liable for the clean-up costs but would do all they could to lessen the potential catastrophe in the region. Congress has called for an investigation into the spill. BP said that equipment failure was behind the oil rig fire but that it did not yet know exactly what happened. @Email:firstname.lastname@example.org