Showdown at the White House: BP Won’t Give ‘Blank Check’ to U.S.
June 14, 2010
(ChattahBox)—-This week marks a turning point in the Obama administration’s response to the Gulf oil disaster. The President is traveling to the Gulf region for another visit, capped off with an Oval office prime-time address to the country. And on Wednesday, the President has summoned top BP officials chairman of the board, Carl-Henric Svanberg and belagured CEO Tony Hayward, to the White House to negotiate the establishment of a claims process, handled by an independent mediator. The White House is exerting increased pressure on BP to ante up $20 billion for an escrow fund to handle claims from the residents of the Gulf region, suffering from the worst environmental disaster in our nation’s history. But BP is wary of exposing itself to unlimited liability with no end in sight. An unnamed source told the Washington Post that “BP will not hand over a blank check to anyone…” Combined with the tense negotiations over liability amounts, the U.S. Coast Guard is demanding that BP step up its woeful efforts to cap the oil spill, gushing into the ecologically sensitive Gulf ecosystem, already dumping upwards of 109 million gallons.
With President Obama’s Gulf visit and national address, he has the opportunity to take control of the message surrounding the BP Gulf oil disaster, after being hit with criticism for the government’s response from all sides, including Britain. The pressure on BP to speed up its containment efforts began on Saturday:
“In a letter released Saturday, Rear Adm. James A. Watson, the top Coast Guard official in the gulf, told BP officials that he was not satisfied with the company’s current containment plan, adding that “every effort must be expended to speed up the process.”
And over the weekend, Obama spoke with British Prime Minister David Cameron, to quiet the growing anger of UK pensioners worried about their pensions invested in BP stock. After the telephone call, British officials released a statement, saying that President Obama holds no grudge against the British people for the oil disaster:
Obama said “that his unequivocal view was that BP was a multinational global company and that frustrations about the oil spill had nothing to do with national identity,” read the statement.
Still, British tabloids have had a field day, playing up the perceived rift between United States and Britain, accusing the U.S of “Anglophobic spite.” London Mayor Boris Johnson has led the charge against the U.S., accusing the Obama administration of beating up on BP. You might ask how many oil spills have destroyed Britain’s pristine natural resources? The answerer would be zero.
Meanwhile, both sides are preparing for a showdown on Wednesday:
“BP will not hand over a blank check to anyone, whether it’s the administration or an independent mediator,” said a person familiar with senior BP executives’ thinking, speaking on the condition of anonymity because of the sensitivity of the negotiations. “BP will constructively engage in a process — on the basis of transparent and pre-agreed rules — a claims oversight process. That’s a different matter.”
But the White House is determined that an escrow account be put in place, to ensure that claims are paid out in a timely manner and not years from now after protracted litigation.
Photo Source: White House Flickr Photostream