As Oil Spill Spreads in Gulf of Mexico, Blame Game Begins

White House puts pressure on BP, as BP denies responsibility for spill accident.

April 28, 2010, 11:37 AM

May 3, 2010 — -- With the White House putting pressure on BP today, company executives promised to clean up the oil spill polluting the Gulf of Mexico but tried to shift responsibility for the accident to another company.

The Obama administration has "our boot on the throat of BP to ensure that they're doing all that is necessary while we do all that is humanly possible to deal with this incident," White House spokesman Robert Gibbs said today.

Gibbs was echoing statements made by President Obama yesterday on a visit to the Gulf region.

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

Watch "World News" for the latest on the oil spill, tonight on ABC.

Today, Gibbs was clear about the president's expectations.

"I think the president will be pleased when there's no more oil leaking on the floor of the ocean," he said.

Earlier in the day, BP CEO Tony Hayward reiterated his company's dedication to clean up the spill, but he said that the explosion on April 20 that caused the spill and led to 11 deaths was not the fault of BP but the fault of the owners of the deep sea rig itself.

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

"We are responsible not for the accident, but we are responsible for the oil and for dealing with it and cleaning the situation up," Hayward said on "Good Morning America" today.

For its part, Transocean declined to take or assign blame for the accident at its Deepwater Horizon rig.

"We will await all the facts before drawing conclusions and we will not speculate," Transocean spokesman Guy Cantwell said in a statement read to The Associated Press.

BP was criticized today for asking fishermen it hired to help with the cleanup to sign waivers that would limit the company's liability.

"I'm looking into that right now," Department of Homeland Security Secretary Janet Napolitano told "Good Morning America." "I was just alerted to that and if that in fact is the case, that is a practice we want stopped immediately."

Shortly after, Hayward said the company has already put a stop to the practice.

"That was an early misstep," Hayward said. "We were using a standard contract. We've eliminated that."

Oil Spill Now the Size of Puerto Rico

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.

Lighter winds did give response crews some reason for hope, though. The strong winds that whipped up seas over the weekend dissipated today, meaning that oil containment tools like booms could be more effective. The lighter wind could keep the bulk of the oil slick from hitting shore for another couple of days.

BP is working on three possible solutions to stop the oil that is flowing from the bottom of the sea.

First, the company is trying to repair the valve that was supposed to prevent the well from leaking. Hayward compared that operation to "conducting open heart surgery about 5,000 feet beneath the seabed."

The company is also trying to drill a relief well parallel to the leaking one, but that could take three months.

The fastest fix would be to place rectangular steel boxes, that weigh 74 tons, over the leaking pipe and then funnel the oil up to a ship. The boxes are expected to be on location next weekend.

Napolitano said BP has seen some success in using underwater dispersants and will conduct a review of the method this morning.

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.

Oil Spill Threatens Wildlife in 4 Gulf States

The spill threatens four Gulf states and hundreds of miles of sensitive coast line.

So far, crews have found relatively few animals affected by the spill. An oil-soaked bird was discovered in Louisiana last week.

There were 25 dead sea turtles found on the shores of Mississippi in the last three days, though their deaths may not have been related to the spill. Necropsies conducted on some of the turtle bodies suggested that oil did not cause the deaths, though veterinarians didn't rule out the possibility.

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.

In parts of Alabama, the Army National Guard is trying to save the beach by create a high-tech barrier. Boxes filled with chemicals that soldify oil are being strung in the surf, so that when the oil makes contact it can be easily collected.

In other coastal areas, work crews are still placing booms, hoping they'll be enough to keep the oil offshore.

BP's safety record has been called into question, including a 2005 explosion at a Texas City refinery. The Wall Street Journal quoted Jordan Barab, a deputy assistant secretary of labor at the Occupational Safety and Health Administration, who said, "there is a systemic safety problem across the company."

Hayward said the company has improved its safety record.

"I think we have made enormous strides as a company in the last three-four years with a remorseless focus on safe and reliable operations," Hayward said.

BP is now concentrating on stopping the leak and cleaning the spill, he said.

"We are clearly focused on minimizing the overall impact," Hayward said. "We are a big company and we intend to deal with this. We take this responsibility incredibly seriously. We absolutely will prevail and we will deal with it."

The Associated Press and ABC News' Jeffrey Koffman, Ryan Owens, Ayana Harry and Sunlen Miller contributed to this report.