Obama Wants BP To Set Up Account For Spill Claims

A worker cleans up oil from the Deepwater Horizon spill along the beach Sunday in Grand Isle, La.
A worker cleans up oil from the Deepwater Horizon spill along the beach Sunday in Grand Isle, La. Eric Gay/AP

President Obama will demand that BP create a special account with "substantial" reserves to pay Gulf oil claims and is readying aid packages for the region, his top political adviser said Sunday. Obama, set to visit the Gulf Coast on Monday and Tuesday, also plans an Oval Office address Tuesday night after his return to Washington.

President Obama will demand that BP create a special account with "substantial" reserves to pay Gulf oil claims and is readying aid packages for the region, his top political adviser said Sunday.

Obama, set to visit the Gulf Coast on Monday and Tuesday, also plans an Oval Office address Tuesday night after his return to Washington. He meets at the White House with BP executives, including the oil company's chairman, on Wednesday.

"This is an ongoing crisis, much like an epidemic," David Axelrod told NBC's Meet the Press.

BP's board was to meet on Monday to discuss deferring its second-quarter dividend and putting the money into escrow until the company's liabilities from the spill are known.

"Our mission is to hold them accountable in every appropriate way," Axelrod said.

The White House wants an independent, third party to administer the escrow account and compensate those with "legitimate" claims for damages, he said. The amount of money set aside will be part of the White House discussions, but Axelrod said it should be "substantial."

In addition, the Obama administration will announce several aid packages and the president will make clear in his meeting Wednesday with BP's chairman, Carl-Henric Svanberg, and others about his expectation of BP's responsibility for caring for people affected by the spill.

"They're responsible for it and want to make sure that they meet that responsibility," Axelrod said, adding that Obama believes BP has a legal and moral obligation.

State Claims

In the meeting, Obama is set to follow the example of some Gulf states, which aim to put the squeeze on the company amid talk of the possibility that BP eventually may file for bankruptcy.

The attorney general in Florida and the state treasurer in Louisiana already have said they want BP to put billions in escrow accounts for claim payments.

"I really don't care how they do it, whether they set up an escrow account or not," said Gov. Bob Riley, R-Ala. "But we have to do something. If you look at what's going on with the economy and the state of Alabama and Mississippi, Louisiana, and now Florida, we're going to have to have some level of compensation, because our tourist season here is essentially from Memorial Day to Labor Day. And with the beaches the way they are this morning, it's going to be very, very difficult to sustain the economic balance that we've had in the past," he told CNN's State of the Union.

Asked who might receive compensation -- oil workers unable to work because there's no deepwater drilling, stores without shoppers, hotels without guests, fishermen without clean water to fish, states without expected revenue -- Riley replied, "Everyone of them. ... I don't think there is a dividing line. I don't think you can say that one group is going to get it and another one doesn't."

The administration's point man for the oil spill said federal officials have directed BP to provide data on how it is processing claims.

"Our goals are to ensure that the claims process is transparent, that it's efficient and fair, and we want to have options for neutral, independent, secure source for claims payment -- so somebody else actually disburses the money," Coast Guard Adm. Thad Allen told NPR's Liane Hansen. "And we need to take a look at how they're going to handle natural resource damages to the state and the federal governments, and we want fair standards for making those compensation decisions."

BP Plan Expected

Allen also said that the government expects a response Sunday from BP to a request from the Coast Guard that it speed up its efforts to contain the spill.

"They had submitted us plans on how they were going to increase containment capacity and redundancy because we don't want to have a system break down," Allen said. "Given the increased flow rate predictions we're looking at now, we wanted them to redouble their efforts and provide us a more effective and timely plan. So they're doing that right now."

BP said Sunday that a containment cap sitting atop a leaking pipe in the Gulf of Mexico captured about 631,680 gallons of oil Saturday, preventing that discharge from flowing into the ocean. The system has collected more than 5 million gallons of oil to date.

BP is hard at work trying to find new ways to capture more oil.

Allen said he expects BP will "bring an additional vessel in and use the 'choke and kill' lines that they used to shoot mud down during the 'top kill' exercise that was unsuccessful a couple of weeks ago."

"We want them to draw more oil off so they can increase their production," he said. "Then we want them to have additional vessels for redundancy, so in case there's a problem with one vessel we can continue to operate."

Copyright 2010 National Public Radio.

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