Activists Call for 'Public Outcry' over Oil Disaster
VENICE, Louisiana - On the 50th day since the
beginning of the massive oil disaster, advocacy group MoveOn says it
will hold nationwide vigils Tuesday night to call for stepped-up efforts
to stop the spill.
The group called for a "major public outcry" and
created a section on its website for people to search for vigils in
their area by typing in their ZIP codes.
Meanwhile, the Obama
administration -- reacting to criticism that it has not been aggressive
enough -- continued to work on turning that perception.
delivered a blunt defense of his administration's response to the spill,
telling NBC's "Today" show that he has held meetings with experts and
has learned "whose ass to kick."
"I don't sit around talking to
experts because this is a college seminar," the president said in an
interview set to air Tuesday. "We talk to these folks because they
potentially have the best answers, so I know whose ass to kick."
The president also is endorsing plans to
lift the cap on damages that oil companies must pay for a spill,
currently set at $75 million.
On Tuesday, Sen. Patrick Leahy,
D-Vermont, chairman of the Senate Judiciary Committee, called for a
sweeping overhaul of the nation's corporate liability laws in the wake
of the oil disaster, arguing that "no one's life should become an
asterisk in somebody's cost-benefit analysis."
The brother of one
of the 11 workers killed in the explosion on the offshore oil rig
Deepwater Horizon blasted BP chief Tony Hayward on Tuesday.
before the Senate Judiciary Committee, Christopher Jones highlighted
Hayward's recent remark that he wants his "life back."
Hayward, I want my brother's life back," Jones said. "We will never get
[his] life back."
With losses mounting among hoteliers,
fishermen and others whose livelihoods have been curtailed by the spill,
frustration is "rapidly escalating" along the Gulf Coast, said Kelby
Linn, a real estate agent and Chamber of Commerce official on Alabama's
Linn told a House Energy and Commerce
subcommittee Monday that the amount of money BP has paid local residents
for their losses has typically been about $5,000, a sum he dismissed as
"a marketing ploy." Businesses such as his vacation rental company are
borrowing money to pay their overhead costs, which he called "the only
way we're going to keep our business alive."
"We do not feel that
BP is going to be stepping up to the plate," he said.
scraped oil off beaches and skimmed it out of waterways from Louisiana
to the Florida Panhandle, but the impact of the Gulf oil disaster will
be felt for years, authorities said.
Initial water samples have
confirmed low concentrations of subsea oil from the ruptured wellhead,
said Jane Lubchenco, head of the National Oceanic and Atmospheric
"We suspected that, but it's good to have
confirmation," Lubchenco said at a news conference Tuesday.
wetlands and wildlife habitats along the Gulf Coast will take far
beyond the time needed to cap the ruptured undersea well at the heart of
the disaster, Coast Guard Adm. Thad Allen, the head of the federal
government's response effort, told reporters Monday at the White House.
"Dealing with the oil spill on the surface is going to go on
for a couple of months. After that it'll be taken care of," Allen said.
"Long-term issues of restoring the environment and the habitats and
stuff will be years."
Workers involved in the cleanup effort face
possible long-term health hazards without proper protective gear, and
the region's environment may retain hazardous chemicals left behind by
the spill, witnesses told members of Congress during a hearing in
Dead wildlife has been reported in the region, and
Allen said Monday that patches of shoreline totaling roughly 120 miles
long have been affected by the spill. The spill has broken up into a
series of pools, ranging from 20 to 100 yards to several miles long.
Oil company BP has managed to place a loose-fitting cap over the
ruptured well, 5,000 feet below the surface of the Gulf and about 40
miles off Louisiana.
BP has collected about 1.8 million gallons
of oil from the ruptured well in the last four days, the company said
BP kept 621,000 gallons of oil
from flowing into the Gulf in the past 24 hours, Allen said Tuesday.
He said the collection levels have "climbed steadily" since the
containment cap became operational and they are expected to continue to
grow in the next few weeks.
The gusher won't be completely shut
down until BP completes drilling a relief well, a process that is
expected to last until August.
Under federal law, BP -- which
owns the damaged well at the heart of the catastrophe -- is responsible
for paying for the cleanup. Obama warned the company against
"nickel-and-diming" communities affected by the largest oil spill in
But for many in the area, what had spilled already
has made their future bleak.
"My concern is
after everything is cleaned up, if they can clean it all up, and they
leave, what is our business going to be like?" asked Dudley Gaspard,
owner of the Sand Dollar Marina and Hotel on hard-hit Grand Isle,
Louisiana. "Oil's coming in pretty heavy, into the marsh area now, and
we're not sure -- we're kind of in the dark."