Messages seeking comment were left for officials at the White House, who have struggled to counter criticism at home of how the administration has handled the disaster. An Associated Press-GfK poll released Tuesday showed 52 percent now disapprove of Obama’s handling of the oil spill, up significantly from last month.
BP, Britain’s largest company before the oil rig exploded, has lost about 45 percent of its value since the explosion — a drop that has alarmed millions of British retirees whose pension funds hold BP stock. Just this week, the company announced that it was canceling its quarterly dividend.
The British press, much more sympathetic than the American media to BP’s plight, has expressed disbelief at the company’s strategy.
“It is hard to recall a more catastrophically mishandled public relations response to a crisis than the one we are witnessing,” the Daily Telegraph’s Jeremy Warner wrote Friday.
About 50 miles off the coast, a newly expanded containment system is capturing or incinerating more than 1 million gallons of oil daily, the first time it has approached its peak capacity, according to the Coast Guard. BP hopes that by late June it will be able to keep nearly 90 percent of the flow from the broken pipe from hitting the ocean.
More than 120 million gallons have leaked from the well, according to the most pessimistic federal daily flow rate estimates. Oil has been washing up from Louisiana to Florida, killing birds and fish, coating delicate marshes and wetlands and covering pristine beaches with tar balls.
A pair of relief wells considered the best chance at a permanent fix won’t be done until August.
BP has put many idled commercial fishermen to work on the cleanup. But not everyone.
Sai Stiffler spent Saturday doing some repairs on his shrimp boat at Delta Marina in Empire, La., after a passing shower made things stiflingly hot and muggy. He signed up for BP’s “vessel of opportunity” program but hasn’t been hired, and he was not pleased that Obama was playing golf and BP’s CEO was at a yacht race while his life is on hold.
“Right now is no time for that,” Stiffler said. “I don’t think they know how bad people are hurting. They make a lot of promises but that’s it.”
Raymond Canevari, 59, of Pensacola, said he was insulted by the fact that Hayward would take in a yacht race while the oil still flows.
“I think everyone has the right to do what they want in their free time, but he doesn’t have the right to have free time at all,” said Canevari, who scouts the bayous, bays and Gulf for driftwood and other found objects, and turns the debris into nature-themed art. “Not until this crisis is resolved.”
Satter reported from London. Associated Press writers Ramit Plushnick-Masti in New Orleans, Mary Foster in Larose, La., Jay Reeves in Gulf Shores, Ala., and Tamara Lush in Pensacola, Fla., and AP videojournalist Bonny Ghosh in Grand Isle, La., contributed to this report.