Obama Says Gulf Oil Cap Is 'Holding'

President slams BP for $50M PR spending campaign during crisis.

ByKATE McCARTHY via logo
June 3, 2010, 7:56 AM

June 4, 2010— -- 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.

Earlier in the day, a BP executive said he was "confident" that a new cap placed over the leaking well will begin to capture some of the oil and prevent it from flowing into the Gulf of Mexico.

"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.

Oil Particles on Florida Coast

"GMA" anchor Sam Champion reported that small particles of oil balls began washing ashore on Pensacola Beach overnight.

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.

"We are going to continue to put that message out but we will always do so in a truthful, straight-forward manner. If any of that changes, we have to alter those ads, make sure they remain accurate and continue to promote the sunshine state," Crist said.

The Florida governor will meet with Obama in New Orleans today to ask for additional support.

"It is a beautiful state, we want to do everything we can to continue to protect Florida, make sure that we keep it as clean as humanly possible," Crist said. "Hopefully, this top-hat procedure was successful and will work to slow down the flow."

Suttles said there are nearly 100 skimmers out in the Gulf "attacking" the oil and trying to prevent it from coming ashore.

"We are getting more and more equipment, we have 1,000 responders, in fact a little over 1,000 responders standing by should something hit the beach," Suttles said.

"I don't want it to get to shore but if it does we want to get if off the beach very, very quickly," he said.

Computer models project that the slick could spread around Florida and up the East Coast, ruining hundreds of miles of coastline.

Dozens of oil-soaked pelicans turned up on the Louisiana coast today. On Grand Terre Island, La., pelicans struggled in a pool of oil, their wings weighed down by the thick substance.

"This is tragic, this is sad, this is literally why we are fighting for our way of life," Louisiana Gov. Bobby Jindal said after seeing an oiled brown pelican Thursday.

"We are not only concerned about this bird, but the future -- this bird was just taken off the national endangered species list and now you see the impact of this oil," he said.

Jindal again pressed for barrier islands to be built along the coast, saying that he is "ordering the dredges to be organized."

"We shouldn't have to see this oil coming into our wetlands," he said. "That's why we are not waiting for BP."

BP: More Workers in Place for Cleanup

Thursday BP CEO Tony Hayward said his company and the federal government have expanded their efforts to clean up the spill.

"We will be here for a very long time. We recognize that this is just the beginning," he said.

There are now 30,000 workers involved in the effort, Hayward said. Approximately 15,000 workers come from BP and the Coast Guard, while the remainder are either volunteers or National Guard.

On May 27, President Obama said there were 20,000 workers on the job.

Hayward added that 5,000 fishing vessels now are working to clean up oil, also a number higher than in previous reports.

ABC News' Jake Tapper and Bradley Blackburn contributed to this report.

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