- The Washington Times - Monday, May 24, 2010

 

The Obama administration was on the defense Monday over its handling of the massive oil spill off the coast of Louisiana, saying the federal government is doing all it can despite a new opinion poll showing a majority of Americans don’t approve of President Obama’s handling of the crisis.

Coast Guard Admiral Thad Allen, who is overseeing the U.S. government’s response, said oil giant BP has the expertise to plug the leak and shrugged off suggestions that the administration should push BP out of the way and take control of the operation.

“To push BP out of the way would raise the question: replace them with what?” Mr. Allen told reporters at the White House.

More than one month after an explosion at the Deepwater Horizon rig killed 11 people and created an environmental disaster, the administration is struggling to convey that it’s doing everything it can to assist in the containment effort while stressing that BP is still legally in charge of the situation.

“We are trying to do everything as I’ve said humanly and technologically possible, first to plug this leak and secondly to deal with what has spilled and both the environmental and economic impacts of that oil,” White House press secretary Robert Gibbs said.

But in a CNN/Opinion Research poll released Monday, 51 percent of Americans say they disapprove of the way President Obama is handling the crisis, though even more — 76 percent — say they disapprove of BP’s response to the spill.

The leak is complicated by the fact it’s coming from a well 5,000 feet under water, meaning all efforts to plug the leak are being conducted by remote-controlled vehicles.

Mr. Allen said the ultimate solution will be the drilling of a relief well to take away some of the pressure, but that won’t happen until August. “We don’t want to wait that long,” he said.

Mr. Allen said he is “satisfied” with the coordination that’s taking place between the government and the company.

On Saturday, President Obama announced the creation of a commission to investigate the explosion, to be headed by former Florida Sen. Bob Graham and former Environmental Protection Agency Administrator William K. Reilly.

Louisiana Gov. Bobby Jindal, a Republican, has repeatedly criticized the White House and BP, saying his requests for additional resources are not being met. He said 65 miles of Louisiana coastline have already been tarred as a result of the disaster.