Obama: BP Will Pay for Its 'Recklessness'

In first Oval Office address, president outlines plan to restore Gulf region.

ByABC News
June 15, 2010, 6:17 AM

WASHINGTON, June 15, 2010 -- With the BP oil spill consuming his presidency, President Obama slammed the oil company for its "recklessness" and said the company will pay for the damage it has caused along the Gulf Coast.

The president's choice of words and imagery signaled a war-like mentality in response to the crisis in the Gulf and seemed like a rallying cry for support for "the battle we're waging against an oil spill that is assaulting our shores and our citizens."

In the first nationally televised address of his presidency delivered from the Oval Office, Obama laid out what he called his administration's "battle plan" to clean up the oil, assist the struggling residents and business owners of the Gulf region and put in place procedures and safeguards to prevent a catastrophe like this in the future.

The president's remarks were an effort to convince the American people that the administration is on top of the growing economic and environmental crisis in the Gulf of Mexico, 57 days after millions of gallons of oil first began spilling from a damaged BP well.

"We will fight this spill with everything we've got for as long it takes. We will make BP pay for the damage their company has caused," he said. "And we will do whatever's necessary to help the Gulf Coast and its people recover from this tragedy."

Obama slammed BP for its "recklessness" and said that when he meets with officials from the oil company Wednesday, he will inform them that they must set up a fund to compensate Gulf Coast residents and business owners who have been affected by the spill.

"This fund will not be controlled by BP. In order to ensure that all legitimate claims are paid out in a fair and timely manner, the account must and will be administered by an independent, third party," the president said.

BP issued a neutral statement tonight after the president's remarks.

"We share the President's goal of shutting off the well as quickly as possible, cleaning up the oil and mitigating the impact on the people and environment of the Gulf Coast," it said. "We look forward to meeting with President Obama tomorrow for a constructive discussion about how best to achieve these mutual goals."

Obama said that in addition to the need for immediate compensation for people in the Gulf, it is necessary to develop a long-term plan to "restore the unique beauty and bounty" of the region.

"The oil spill represents just the latest blow to a place that has already suffered multiple economic disasters and decades of environmental degradation that has led to disappearing wetlands and habitats," he said. "And the region still hasn't recovered from hurricanes Katrina and Rita."

Obama announced that he has asked Secretary of the Navy Ray Mabus, a former governor of Mississippi, to serve as a so-called czar and to develop a long-term Gulf Coast restoration plan -- funded by BP.

"The plan will be designed by states, local communities, tribes, fishermen, businesses, conservationists, and other Gulf residents," the president said. "And BP will pay for the impact this spill has had on the region."

Tonight the White House announced that Obama has tapped former Justice Department inspector general Michael Bromwich as his choice to head the Minerals Management Service, the agency that regulates the oil industry.