GRAND ISLE, La. — Billy Nungesser, the president of Plaquemines Parish whose frustrations about the federal government response have been featured prominently on TV in the past few weeks, told ABC News that in the private meeting the president had with local leaders here today, President Obama "chewed me out."
Nungesser, a Republican, told ABC News that President Obama "told me that we need to communicate."
He said that he told President Obama that after his first visit to the region a few weeks ago, "We got the jack-up boats done cause of you. And you spent more time with us than any other president. But since then, it was a bottleneck. Things weren't getting done. All of it was sitting in the marsh."
Nungesser said the president told him, "'Well you know, if you can't get it done through the chain of command' – and he's made some changes; we've got a guy on the ground now that can make decisions — he said, 'you pick up the phone and call the White House. And, if you can't get me on the phone, then you can go blast me.'"
"And I said, 'Well, Mr. President, I didn't want to blast you. I'll blast the Coast Guard for not making BP be accountable.' And I know he is the Coast Guard. So, in a sense, you know, he was right."
Nungesser said that "if things happen like they happened after the last meeting, you won't see me blasting anybody because things happened right after that. And things are happening today. The oil that we showed you is being cleaned up. There's equipment all over the parish and we do have a senior person from the Coast Guard in our office now that can make decisions and can hold BP's feet to the fire, because they are the ones that should be stepping up to the plate."
He concluded: "I think he cares and he's a hands-on guy. I was real impressed."
- Jake Tapper and Karen Travers