Washington (CNN) — President Obama will have his showdown on Wednesday with BP top executives and says he will tell the company it must pick up the tab for the massive oil disaster in the Gulf.
Obama vowed Tuesday to unleash whatever resources may be needed to fight the oil spill in the Gulf of Mexico and to keep the pressure on BP.
“We will fight this spill with everything we’ve got for as long it takes,” Obama said after two consecutive days surveying the Gulf Coast, which is threatened by a massive oil spill that began April 20 and continues to pump oil into the Gulf waters and worry into Gulf residents.
In a prime-time speech to a national audience, the president predicted that, “in the coming days and weeks,” efforts to contain the leak “should capture up to 90 percent of the oil leaking out of the well.”
Ending the leak should occur later in the summer, when a relief well being drilled by BP is slated for completion, he said.
Referring to his planned meeting Wednesday at the White House with BP’s top execs, Obama said he would tell Chairman Carl-Henric Svanberg “that he is to set aside whatever resources are required to compensate the workers and business owners who have been harmed as a result of his company’s recklessness.”
The fund will be controlled not by BP, but by an independent, third party, he said.
In a statement, BP said, “We share the president’s goal of shutting off the well as quickly as possible, cleaning up the oil and mitigating the impact on the people and environment of the Gulf Coast. We look forward to meeting with President Obama tomorrow (Wednesday) for a constructive discussion about how best to achieve these mutual goals.”
Speedy claims processing is expected to be high on the meeting’s agenda.
David Axelrod, Obama’s senior adviser, has said a new claims plan would call for an independent third party to handle the process, and a White House spokesman said the administration is confident that it has the legal authority to force BP to set up an escrow account for the purpose of paying damages.
BP announced Tuesday that it accelerated commercial large-loss claims and has approved 337 checks for $16 million to businesses that have filed claims in excess of $5,000. Initial payments began over the weekend and will be completed this week, the British energy giant said.
During his Oval Office speech, Obama made no reference to the announcement made earlier in the day by government scientists that they had increased their estimate of oil flowing into the Gulf of Mexico by 50 percent — to between 35,000 and 60,000 barrels per day, which translates into 1.5 million gallons to 2.5 million gallons per day.
The government’s previous estimate, issued last week, was 20,000 to 40,000 barrels per day.
The change was “based on updated information and scientific assessments,” and was reached by Energy Secretary Steven Chu, Interior Secretary Ken Salazar and Marcia McNutt, the head of the U.S. Geological Survey, who leads the government’s Flow Rate Technical Group.
“The improved estimate is based on more and better data that is now available and that helps increase the scientific confidence in the accuracy of the estimate,” the officials said in a statement issued Tuesday afternoon.
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