President Obama got a briefing today on efforts to finally stop the oil spill in the Gulf of Mexico and concluded that progress is apparently being made in limiting the pollution.
Speaking in Kenner, La., Obama suggested there was finally a glimmer of hope that spill could be brought under control after receiving a briefing from Adm. Thad Allen on the efforts by BP to put a cap on the spilling oil and draw much of it to a ship on the surface.
"It does appear that the cap at least for now is holding," Obama said. But he cautioned, "It is way to early to be optimistic."
Despite the good news, the president spoke angrily about BP's priorities. He said the oil company has spent $50 million on television advertising to limit the damage to their corporate image and planned to pay out $10 billion in dividends at a time when businesses throughout the region are getting hurt by the oil spill.
"They've got moral and legal obligations to the gulf," he said, and warned BP against "nickel and diming the folks down here."
The president visited the region for the third time since BP's underwater oil well erupted and began pouring tens of millions of gallons of oil into the gulf. Following his briefing by Allen, he was going to a barrier island to visit local workers affected by the catastrophe.
"I am actually pretty confident this is going to work," BP COO Doug Suttles told "GMA." "It probably won't capture all of the flow but it should capture the vast majority..."
BP has siphoned some of the oil up a pipe, The Associated Press reported. Suttles told GMA the company wouldn't know immediately how much oil it was siphoning off.
"It is hard to put a precise number on it. But what we will be doing is monitoring it very, very closely as we slowly increase the production," Suttles said. "And what we are trying to do is get the maximum amount we can with the minimum amount leaking by. But we will probably have to have some very small amount leaking around the bottom to make sure we don't draw this water in."
The live images of the leaking well show oil still flowing out from the cap, but Suttles said that is due to four vents that were installed in the top of the dome to prevent hydrates from forming. BP will begin successively closing those vents over the course of the day, Suttles said.
At least 140 miles of the Gulf Coast have now been touched by oil. An oily sheen has been spotted less than seven miles from Pensacola, Fla.
Florida Gov. Charlie Crist called the finding "very disturbing."
"Obviously, we want to do everything we can to keep it from coming onshore," he said today on "GMA."
"I communicated with [Coast Guard] Adm. Thad Allen yesterday, seeking more skimmers to try to stop anymore of that from coming on the shore in Florida."
Tourism is a multibillion-dollar industry in Florida and the oil would most likely affect the local economy. Crist said $25 million has been allocated to continue to market Florida to the country, "to let people know that most of our beaches are absolutely beautiful, un-impacted at this point in time.