President Obama on Friday criticized BP for spending money on advertising and shareholder dividends even as oil continued to spill from the company’s damaged Gulf Coast well.
The president said that BP should not be “nickel and diming” Gulf Coast residents over damage claims while continuing to pay out billions of dollars in shareholder dividends.
“I want BP to be very clear they’ve got moral and legal obligations here in the Gulf,” he said.
BP has declined calls to stop the approximately $10 billion in dividend payments it intends to pay out this year.
The president spoke to reporters in Kenner, La., during his third trip to the Gulf Coast since the oil spill began. While there, he met with Coast Guard Admiral Thad Allen, who is leading the oil spill response, as well as the governors of Louisiana, Florida and Alabama. He then left for a two-and-a-half hour drive to the barrier island town of Grand Isle, La., a tourist and fishing town hit hard by the spill.
The president also said that the progress was being made on the newest effort to contain the oil spill — a cap intended to funnel oil to a ship on the surface — but that it was “too early to be optimistic” about the effort.
Earlier today, BP executives told reporters that the containment cap is now capturing about 1,000 barrels of oil per day (42,000 gallons) — a small percentage of the at least 12,000 to 19,000 barrels per day that are leaking.
The company will gradually try to close the four vents on the cap that are allowing oil to escape. It’s a delicate process that must be done carefully to ensure that the escaping oil and gas don’t form the ice-like methane hydrates that would fouled up an earlier containment cap last month.
BP Senior Vice President Kent Wells told reporters Friday afternoon that it was too early to declare the containment cap a success, but added “I will say I’m encouraged.”
Wells said BP would update the public every 24 hours about how much oil was being captured.