WASHINGTON (AP) - In assuring Americans on Tuesday that BP won't
control the compensation fund for Gulf oil spill recovery,
President Barack Obama failed to mention that the government won't
control it, either.
That means it's anyone's guess whether the government can, in
fact, make BP pay all costs related to the spill.
Obama aimed high in his prime-time Oval Office address - perhaps
higher than the facts support and history teaches - as he vowed to
restore livelihoods and nature from the still-unfolding calamity in
the Gulf of Mexico.
A look at some of his statements and how they compare with those
OBAMA: "We will make BP pay for the damage their company has
caused and we will do whatever's necessary to help the Gulf Coast
and its people recover from this tragedy. ... Tomorrow, I will meet
with the chairman of BP and inform him that he is to set aside
whatever resources are required to compensate the workers and
business owners who have been harmed as a result of his company's
recklessness. And 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 FACTS: An independent arbiter is no more bound to the
government's wishes than an oil company's. In that sense, there is
no certainty BP will be forced to make the Gulf economy whole again
or that taxpayers are completely off the hook for any of the myriad
costs associated with the spill or cleanup. The government can
certainly press for that, using legislative and legal tools. But
there are no guarantees.
It took 20 years to sort through liability after the Exxon
Valdez oil spill in Alaska, and in the end, punitive damages were
slashed by the courts to about $500 million from $2.5 billion. Many
people who had lost their livelihoods in the spill died without
seeing a check.
OBAMA: "Already, I have issued a six-month moratorium on
deepwater drilling. I know this creates difficulty for the people
who work on these rigs, but for the sake of their safety and for
the sake of the entire region, we need to know the facts before we
allow deepwater drilling to continue."
THE FACTS: Obama issued a six-month moratorium on new permits
for deepwater drilling but production continues from existing
OBAMA: "In the coming days and weeks, these efforts should
capture up to 90 percent of the oil leaking out of the well."
THE FACTS: BP and the administration contend that if all goes as
planned, they should be able to contain nearly 90 percent of the
worst-case oil flow. But that's a big "if." So far, little has
gone as planned in the various remedies attempted to shut off or
contain the flow. Possibly as many as 60,000 barrels a day are
escaping. BP would need to nearly triple its recovery rate to reach
Associated Press writers Matthew Daly, H. Josef Hebert and Jim
Drinkard in Washington and Carol Druga in Atlanta contributed to
(Copyright 2010 by The Associated Press. All Rights Reserved.)