GETTING WHAT THE WHITE HOUSE WANTED…. President Obama spoke to the media this afternoon, following his meeting with BP executives, including its chairman, Carl-Henric Svanberg. In his remarks, the president outlined the results of the discussion.
“…I am pleased to announce that BP has agreed to set aside $20 billion to pay claims for damages resulting from this spill. This $20 billion amount will provide substantial assurance that the claims people and businesses have will be honored. And it is not a cap. The people of the Gulf have my commitment that BP will meet its obligations to them.
“BP has publicly pledged to make good on the claims it owes to people in the Gulf. And so, the agreement we reached will set up the financial and legal framework in which to do it.
“Another important element is that this $20 billion will not be controlled by either BP or by the government. It will be put in an escrow account, administered by an impartial, independent third party.
“If you or your business has suffered an economic loss as a result of this spill, you will be eligible to file a claim for part of this $20 billion. This fund will not supersede individuals’ or states’ rights to present claims in court. BP will also continue to be liable for the environmental disaster it caused, and we will continue to work to make sure they address it. Additionally, BP voluntarily agreed to establish a $100 million fund to compensate unemployed oil rig workers affected by the closure of other deep water rigs.”
As to concerns raised by Republicans like Mississippi Gov. Haley Barbour, the president added, “I’m absolutely confident BP will be able to meet its obligations to the Gulf Coast and to the American people. BP is a strong and viable company and it is in all our interests that it remains so. This is about accountability. At the end of the day, that’s what every American wants and expects.”
The White House also released a fact-sheet on how the escrow fund will work.
Also note, as Obama was briefing the media, BP’s board of directors announced it would suspend paying dividends for the rest of 2010.
There were some concerns going into the week that BP would balk at White House demands. At this point, Obama seems to have won every concession he sought. For those along the Gulf Coast, that’s good news.