Obama considers whether ‘laws were broken’ in Gulf

OBAMA CONSIDERS WHETHER ‘LAWS WERE BROKEN’ IN GULF…. President Obama spoke earlier from the Rose Garden, after a meeting with the leaders of his BP Oil Spill Commission, to talk a bit about the ongoing response to the ongoing disaster in the Gulf. There was one new element to his remarks.

Most of the president’s remarks were familiar. He talked about addressing the crisis, and preventing future catastrophes. He emphasized “the largest cleanup effort in the nation’s history,” and the tens of thousands of people who’ve been dispatched and are working around the clock. The president also referenced the loans to local businesses, the medical professionals on hand across the region for “any ill effects felt by cleanup workers and residents,” efforts to clean up federal agencies that fell victim to widespread corruption during the Bush/Cheney era, and the six-month moratorium on drilling new deepwater wells.

But the new part was Obama’s remarks about legal consequences.

“[O]ur responsibility doesn’t end there. We have an obligation to investigate what went wrong and to determine what reforms are needed so that we never have to experience a crisis like this again. If the laws on our books are insufficient to prevent such a spill, the laws must change. If oversight was inadequate to enforce these laws, oversight has to be reformed. If our laws were broken, leading to this death and destruction, my solemn pledge is that we will bring those responsible to justice on behalf of the victims of this catastrophe and the people of the Gulf region.”

The prospect of possible criminal inquiries was probably not welcome news at BP headquarters.

In the meantime, the latest in a series of containment efforts is getting underway this afternoon.

BP was trying on Tuesday to use a dome to funnel some of the leaking crude to a tanker on the surface. A similar attempt failed three weeks ago, but officials said they had resolved some of the technical problems that forced them to abort that operation last time. If successful, the containment dome might be able to capture most of the oil, but it would not plug the leak. If it is not successful, there would be continued environmental and economic damage to the gulf region, which could, administration officials warn, stretch into August, when two relief wells are expected to finally be completed, which would allow BP to plug the leaking oil well with cement.

Adm. Thad W. Allen, the incident commander, said during a news conference Tuesday that it could take up to three days for workers to implement this latest procedure.

Even if this latest effort works flawlessly — hardly a sure thing — the mechanism will still only capture most of the oil, not all. Indeed, of all the remaining options, none has any hope of plugging the well, short of the relief wells scheduled for August.