President Barack Obama on Tuesday said he wants a commission he created to thoroughly investigate the catastrophic Gulf oil spill, as frustration builds about the government's response and investors shave billions off BP's market value in response to a once-promising attempt to plug the leak that failed over the holiday weekend.
"In doing this work, they have my full support to follow the facts where ever they may lead," Obama said in the White House Rose Garden after emerging from a meeting with the co-chairs of the National Commission on the BP Deepwater Horizon Oil Spill. He said if laws were broken, justice will be done. He also said the federal government is monitoring the situation minute-by-minute.
Obama said the commission will report back to him in six months on the causes of the spill, the government's response and what changes are needed to oil regulations to prevent a repeat of the disaster.
"Only then can we be assured deep-water drilling can be done safely," he said after noting that he has halted exploratory deep-water drilling along the Gulf coast for six months, when the commission's investigation is expected to be complete.
He said he told the panel's chairmen to hold hearings on the disaster, and to involve officials from BP, Halliburton and Transocean. Obama had earlier chastised the three companies for pointing fingers at one another during Congressional hearings into the disaster.
The chairs of the commission are former Sen. Bob Graham and former Environmental Protection Agency Administrator William Reilly. Obama said he will name five other members to the panel soon.
Obama said the commission is needed to help understand what caused the catastrophe, which has now leaked more oil off the coast of Louisiana than the 1989 Exxon Valdez spill in Alaska.
Shares of BP dropped nearly 13% in early morning trading Tuesday, cutting the London-based company's market value by about $25 billion as investors digested news that a procedure to plug the oil well with heavy mud failed despite early signs of success.
Obama traveled to Louisiana on Friday to survey the disaster and the federal government's clean-up efforts amid growing criticism the government hasn't done enough. Obama said over the weekend that he was outraged that the mile-deep well continued to leak roughly half a million gallons of oil daily and that attempts to plug the leak continue to fail.
A new maneuver BP is attempting Tuesday has never been tried at such depths and Obama cautioned over the weekend that the new move will be difficult and take several days.
Frustrations over the disaster appear to grow daily as it persists despite proclamations from the government and BP that the best-and-brightest minds are working to solve the crisis.
The Obama administration has taken a tough approach to dealing with BP, and over the weekend officials clashed with the British oil giant. Administration officials said the latest attempt to stop the leak, which involves placing a large cap on the well and redirecting the oil, could increase the flow by 20% temporarily despite suggestions from BP that the new move posed little risk.
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