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Yesterday, I visited Caminada Bay in Grand Isle, Louisiana -- one of the first places to feel the devastation wrought by the oil spill in the Gulf of Mexico. While I was here, at Camerdelle's Live Bait shop, I met with a group of local residents and small business owners.
Folks like Floyd Lasseigne, a fourth-generation oyster fisherman. This is the time of year when he ordinarily earns a lot of his income. But his oyster bed has likely been destroyed by the spill.
Terry Vegas had a similar story. He quit the 8th grade to become a shrimper with his grandfather. Ever since, he's earned his living during shrimping season -- working long, grueling days so that he could earn enough money to support himself year-round. But today, the waters where he has worked are closed. And every day, as the spill worsens, he loses hope that he will be able to return to the life he built.
Here, this spill has not just damaged livelihoods. It has upended whole communities. And the fury people feel is not just about the money they have lost. It is about the wrenching recognition that this time their lives may never be the same.
These people work hard. They meet their responsibilities. But now because of a manmade catastrophe -- one that is not their fault and beyond their control -- their lives have been thrown into turmoil. It is brutally unfair. And what I told these men and women is that I will stand with the people of the Gulf Coast until they are again made whole.
That is why, from the beginning, we have worked to deploy every tool at our disposal to respond to this crisis. Today, there are more than 20,000 people working around the clock to contain and clean up this spill. I have authorized 17,500 National Guard troops to participate in the response. More than 1,900 vessels are aiding in the containment and cleanup effort. We have convened hundreds of top scientists and engineers from around the world. This is the largest response to an environmental disaster of this kind in the history of our country.
We have also ordered BP to pay economic injury claims, and this week, the federal government sent BP a preliminary bill for $69 million to pay back American taxpayers for some of the costs of the response so far. In addition, after an emergency safety review, we are putting in place aggressive new operating standards for offshore drilling. And I have appointed a bipartisan commission to look into the causes of this spill. If laws are inadequate, they will be changed. If oversight was lacking, it will be strengthened. And if laws were broken, those responsible will be brought to justice.
These are hard times in Louisiana and across the Gulf Coast, an area that has already seen more than its fair share of troubles. The people of this region have met this terrible catastrophe with seemingly boundless strength and character in defense of their way of life. What we owe them is a commitment by our nation to match the resilience they have shown. That is our mission. And it is one we will fulfill.
President Barack Obama
Thank you for writing to me about the oil spill in
the Gulf of Mexico. I am going to stand with the people of
the Gulf Coast until they are made whole, and I appreciate
your perspective as we continue to do everything we can to
address this crisis.
The Gulf is one of the richest and most beautiful
ecosystems on the planet. For centuries, its residents have
enjoyed and made a living off the fish that swim in its
waters and the wildlife that inhabit its shores. The Gulf is
also the heartbeat of the region's economic life, and this oil
spill has upended whole communities.
My Administration will continue to leverage every
resource at our disposal to protect coastlines, to clean up
the oil, to hold British Petroleum and other companies
accountable for damages, to begin to restore the bounty
and beauty of this region, and to aid the hardworking
people of the Gulf as they rebuild their businesses and
communities. For information about response efforts, how
to help, or available assistance, I encourage you to visit
www.doi.gov/deepwaterhorizon, or www.epa.gov/bpspill/.
Small businesses may also find resources by visiting
www.sba.gov or calling 1-(800)-659-2955.
Thank you again for contacting me. I encourage
you to visit WhiteHouse.gov to learn more about my
Administration or to contact me in the future.
In the days since the BP oil spill began, the failure to stop the leak has caused incredible anger and frustration -- especially for the people of the Gulf Coast struggling to survive one of the worst environmental disasters in our nation's history.
This leak is an unprecedented catastrophe and a technical challenge unlike any we've ever seen. We are pressing for every possible remedy to keep oil from flowing into the Gulf, and to capture as much as we can while relief wells are drilled that will permanently stop the leak. We are relying on a team of scientists and experts from our own laboratories and from around the world -- led by our Energy Secretary and Nobel Prize-winning physicist Steven Chu. And we've ordered BP to send additional equipment to facilitate the capture of oil and the capping of the well.
But with so much oil already in the Gulf, and more likely to spill before this catastrophe is over, we are also doing everything in our power to protect the coastline.
The federal government is in the midst of the largest cleanup effort in the nation's history. I have authorized 17,500 members of the National Guard, and more than 24,700 people are currently working around the clock, across four states, to help contain the oil and clean the mess. More than 5,500 vessels are assisting in the effort, and more than 5 million feet of boom are soaking up oil and protecting habitat.
BP has now captured more than 4.6 million gallons of oil from the Gulf waters -- in addition to 3.8 million gallons of oil burned and 18.5 million gallons of oily water skimmed from the surface. And we have approved the construction of new barrier islands, paid for by BP, to try to stop oil before it reaches shore.
Ultimately, BP is responsible for causing this horrific disaster, and we will hold the company fully accountable and demand that it pay back every dime for the damage caused and lives disrupted. BP has agreed to cover the costs for the people, property and natural resources impacted by the spill -- and we will make sure it delivers on that promise.
BP has set up a website -- www.bp.com/claims -- and a toll-free number -- 1-800-440-0858 - open 24 hours a day, seven days a week for people to file their claims.
We are pushing BP to do everything possible to pay out those claims quickly. For those who find themselves running into a wall with BP, we also have a team on the ground to make sure BP is meeting its responsibilities. Anyone having trouble with BP should call the Coast Guard at 1-800-280-7118, and further assistance is available through a host of other sources outlined at www.disasterassistance.gov.
But, beyond the current disaster, we have an obligation to prevent a tragedy like this from ever happening again. I've named an independent commission to determine what steps need to be taken. Where the laws are insufficient to prevent another spill, we'll change them. Where oversight is inadequate, we'll strengthen it.
In addition, the Justice Department has launched a criminal investigation into the explosion, and the Department of the Interior is overhauling the Minerals Management Service, the agency responsible for overseeing oil drilling in this country, so that those responsible for the safety of the oil rigs and the protection of our coasts are not under the thumb of the oil companies.
I understand the frustration and anger that the people of the Gulf Coast are feeling. I share it. But instead of allowing feelings of anger and frustration to overwhelm our efforts, we must stay focused on the work at hand.
We owe it to the people of the Gulf to bring this ordeal to an end, and we owe it to the American people to make sure it never happens again.