Oil Spill Spreads, Napolitano Says BP Liability Waivers Unacceptable

BP CEO called waivers an "early misstep."

ByABC News via GMA logo
April 28, 2010, 11:37 AM

May 3, 2010 — -- Secretary of Homeland Security Janet Napolitano told "Good Morning America" today that it was unacceptable for BP to ask fishermen it hired to help with the cleanup of the Gulf oil spill to sign waivers that would limit the company's liability.

"I'm looking into that right now." she said. "I was just alerted to that and if that in fact is the case, that is a practice we want stopped immediately."

BP CEO Tony Hayward told "GMA" this morning that the company has already put a stop to the practice.

"That was an early misstep George, frankly. We were using a standard contract. We've eliminated that," Hayward told George Stephanopoulos.

The oil slick in the Gulf of Mexico, which is estimated to be the size of Puerto Rico, has shown no sign of stopping as the country braces for what could be the worst environmental disaster in U.S. history.

Napolitano and Secretary of the Interior Ken Salazar will meet with BP executives in Washington, D.C., today.

Napolitano said she wants to ensure that people who have been affected by the oil slick have a clear claims process and "prompt reimbursement."

"They are going to pay for the federal government's cost, for the states and most importantly for the individuals and communities that are going to be most directly impacted," Napolitano said.

The spill threatens four Gulf states and hundreds of miles of sensitive coast line. There are reports of injured wildlife including an oil-covered bird in Louisiana and 20 dead sea turtles in Mississippi, although it will require additional tests to find out the cause of death.

More than 6,800 square miles of federal fishing areas, from the Mississippi River to the Florida Panhandle, have been closed for at least 10 days.

Amid criticism of the federal government's response, President Obama Sunday visited the region to reiterate support and make clear that BP will be held accountable for the cleanup.

"Let me be clear, BP is responsible for this leak. BP will be paying for the bill," Obama said.

Hayward said that while his company is in charge of the cleanup, BP was not responsible for the accident April 20 that led to 11 deaths.

"The drilling rig was Transocean's drilling rig, it was their equipment that failed, its their systems, their processors that were running it," Hayward said.