President Obama: Fed Gov't in Charge of Efforts to Contain Oil Spill, Not BP

Obama said the spill made clear that regulatory charges are needed.

"For years, there's been a scandalously close relationship between oil companies and the agency that regulates them," the president said. "That's why we've decided to separate the people who permit the drilling from those who regulate and ensure the safety of the drilling."

Spill Claims Administration Official

The oil spill claimed its first administration official, with the resignation of Minerals Management Service director Elizabeth "Liz" Birnbaum. Birnbaum had been in this position since July but her agency had come under fire for what critics said were lax oversight measures and a cozy relationship with the oil industry.

Obama told reporters this afternoon that he was informed of Birnbaum's resignation earlier today and did not know the circumstances by which it came about.

"I can tell you what I've said to [Interior Secretary] Ken Salazar, is that we have to make sure if we are going forward with domestic oil production that the federal agency charged with overseeing its safety and security is operating at the highest level," he said.

Obama has been criticized for leaving the perception that he's ignoring the proposals and advice of others, such as Louisiana Gov. Bobby Jindal, fishermen and industry experts in the region, who have suggestions on how to respond better to the crisis. The government has only accepted help from two of the countries that have volunteered -- Norway and Mexico

The president today defended his decision for leaving some help on the table.

"The job of our response team is to say, OK, if 17 countries have offered equipment and help, let's evaluate what they've offered, how fast can it get here; is it actually going to be redundant or will it actually add to the overall effort," Obama said.

The president said he maintains a "constant sense of urgency" and is examining every recommendation to make the best judgment on the appropriate right steps to take.

"Are we doing everything perfectly out there, then the answer is absolutely not," he said. "We can always do better. If the question is, are we, each time there is an idea, evaluating it and making a decision, is this the best option that we have right now, based on how quickly we can stop this leak and how much damage can we mitigate, then the answer is yes."

Obama announced in March that he was lifting the bans on offshore drilling and oil and gas exploration off the Virginia coast, and would expand lease sales for oil and gas exploration on the Atlantic seaboard.

"This is not a decision that I've made lightly," Obama said March 31. "But the bottom line is this: Given our energy needs, in order to sustain economic growth, produce jobs and keep our businesses competitive, we're going to need to harness traditional sources of fuel even as we ramp up production of new sources of renewable, homegrown energy."

That move marked the first sale of offshore oil and gas drilling rights in the Atlantic in more than two decades and angered environmentalists.

Obama responded to the criticism by arguing that it was necessary to pursue a comprehensive energy strategy to make the United States more energy-independent.

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