Federal Response to Oil Spill Comes Under Renewed Criticism

BY Hari Sreenivasan  May 24, 2010 at 2:20 PM EDT

Updated 4:45 pm ET

The Coast Guard admiral coordinating the federal response to the Gulf Coast oil spill said Monday it would not make sense for the government to take over control of the accident from BP.

“To push BP out of the way … would raise the question, to replace them with what?” said Admiral Thad Allen at a White House press briefing. The government’s current relationship with BP, in which federal authorities oversee the company’s response, “is the way I think we should move forward,” Allen said.

Allen’s comments came just a day after Interior Secretary Ken Salazar suggested the government was prepared to assume command of the response effort if officials determine BP wasn’t acting aggressively enough.

“If we find that they’re not doing what they’re supposed to be doing, we’ll push them out of the way appropriately,” Salazar said.

Allen said the secretary’s comments were “more of a metaphor.”

The federal response to the Gulf Coast oil spill came under additional criticism Monday as crude pushed further inside Louisiana’s fragile marshland and BP announced it was delaying its next attempt to plug the leak.

With oil now 12 miles into Louisiana’s marshes, administration officials again stressed that BP would be held accountable for the accident.

“We will keep our boot on their neck until the job gets done,” said Interior Secretary Ken Salazar at a news conference alongside Homeland Security Secretary Janet Napolitano, Louisiana Governor Bobby Jindal and a delegation of U.S. Senators.

Salazar and Napolitano said the government is moving to expedite cleanup efforts by deploying additional Coast Guard officials throughout the region.

Yet despite such assurances, Jindal voiced frustration with what he described as the government’s “disjointed” response to the spill. He pressed officials for additional containment boom, skimmers and other resources and repeated his request for approval to begin building a series of protective sand barriers.

“This oil threatens not only our coast and our wetlands, this oil fundamentally threatens our way of life in southeastern Louisiana,” Jindal said.

Prior to Monday’s news conference, BP said it was delaying by one day an effort to plug the leak by pumping a mixture of mud and concrete into the blown-out underwater well. Doug Suttles, chief operating officer for exploration and production, told NBC this morning the company will now attempt the so-called top kill technique on Wednesday.

BP also said its cost for the spill have stretched to $760 million.

We’ll have lots more on the spill on tonight’s NewsHour, including an interview with Coast Guard Admiral Thad Allen. Stay tuned.