Struggle to Secure Oil Leak Not Over, Obama Warns

Posted July 16, 2010 at 10:06am

Updated: 12:02 p.m.

President Barack Obama said Friday that there is “no doubt” that BP’s success in capping the oil spill in the Gulf of Mexico is progress, but he cautioned against equating the step as the end of the debacle.

The president hailed Thursday’s news that BP was finally able to stem the flow of oil into the Gulf nearly three months after an April 20 oil rig explosion. But scientists are still running tests on the integrity of the new cap, he said, and the next step is to make sure that oil is not seeping out elsewhere along the sea floor “in ways that could be even more catastrophic” than the initial leak.

“It’s important that we don’t get ahead of ourselves here,” Obama told reporters during remarks at the White House. “One of the problems with having this camera down there is that when the oil stops gushing, everybody feels like we’re done. And we’re not.”

Still, he said the good news is that even if the cap is not able to completely shut off the flow, it will capture far more oil than before. The new, more sophisticated cap will contain up to 80,000 barrels of oil a day, as compared with 25,000 under the previous cap.

Obama said he will probably visit the Gulf again in the next several weeks. In the meantime, he said he is staying in touch “each and every day” with scientists on the scene.

Louisiana Sen. Mary Landrieu (D), whose home state has been rocked by the spill, called the BP cap “the first piece of good news the Gulf Coast has received in three months.”

Sen. David Vitter (R-La.) said the stoppage “indicate[s] that we’ve finally turned the corner.”

But both Senators, in separate statements released Thursday, maintained that the cap is just one step in the recovery process. Vitter stated, “We must quickly refocus resources to clean up our coasts and protect our marshes,” while Landrieu said drilling a relief well will permanently stop the spill.

“Lots of testing remains to be done, and progress on the relief wells continues to be made,” she said. “While the new cap has been successful in temporarily containing the gushing oil, the completion of the relief well is the permanent solution to plugging this rouge well.”

Jessica Brady contributed to this report.