U.S. presses BP to stop gushing Gulf Coast oil leak
A huge oil slick caused by an underwater leak continued to creep toward the U.S. Gulf Coast on Monday as the Obama administration pressed energy giant BP Plc to stem the oil gushing from its ruptured offshore well.
The direction of the slick has been pushed around by strong winds in the Gulf of Mexico while the likely economic and environmental costs of the accident mounted.
President Barack Obama visited affected communities on Sunday, pledging a "relentless relief effort" but keeping the focus on the British oil giant BP.
"Let me be clear: BP is responsible for this leak. BP will be paying the bill," Obama said. "We are dealing with a massive and potentially unprecedented environmental disaster."
"The oil that is still leaking from the well could seriously damage the economy and the environment of our Gulf states and it could extend for a long time. It could jeopardize the livelihoods of thousands of Americans who call this place home," Obama said during his visit to Louisiana.
The swelling black tide threatens shipping, wildlife, beaches and one of the nation's most fertile fishing grounds stretching across the Mississippi Delta from Louisiana to Florida. Air quality could also become an issue, and is being monitored by authorities.
The slick appeared likely to move toward the Alabama and Florida coasts and engulf the Chandeleur Islands off Louisiana's southeast tip in the next few days, the U.S. National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration said.
Attorneys-general from five U.S. Gulf states -- Louisiana, Mississippi, Alabama, Florida and Texas -- met in Mobile, Alabama on Sunday. They said they would draft letters to Obama and to BP seeking the swiftest possible delivery of federal aid and corporate compensation to those affected.
"We need to make sure if BP is picking up the check, they do so in a pretty big hurry," said Louisiana Attorney General Buddy Caldwell.
BP said it was doing its best to perform a complicated procedure -- shutting off a gushing well nearly one mile underwater. The efforts, which are like performing "open-heart surgery at 5,000 feet in the dark with robot-controlled submarines," could take weeks or months, BP America Chairman Lamar McKay told ABC News.
BP said it is working on five plans to stop the flow of oil, including installing domes to collect the oil on the seabed and bring it to the surface.
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