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Obama: Nation must avoid oil spill repeat

Promising 'justice' for victims of the Gulf Coast disaster, the president moves forward with an investigative panel. Atty. Gen. Eric H. Holder Jr.'s visit to the region raises the possibility of criminal charges.

June 01, 2010|By Peter Nicholas, Tribune Washington Bureau
  • Obama prepares to make a statement to reporters in the Rose Garden of the White House on June 1.
Obama prepares to make a statement to reporters in the Rose Garden of the… (Charles Dharapak / Associated…)

Reporting from Washington — — As BP launches another attempt to stop the Gulf of Mexico oil spill, President Obama said Tuesday he was moving ahead with a formal inquiry aimed at preventing another environmental disaster.

Obama, speaking in the Rose Garden, said he will soon make a handful of appointments to a special commission examining the cause of the oil spill that he has called "the greatest environmental disaster of its kind in our history."'

Obama appeared with the co-chairmen of the new commission, former Democratic Sen. Bob Graham of Florida and William K. Reilly, who headed the Environmental Protection Agency under the Republican administration of former President George H.W. Bush. Obama said he is expecting a report from them in six months.

"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,'' Obama said. "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."

To that end, Atty. Gen. Eric H. Holder Jr. traveled to the region Tuesday to meet with state and federal prosecutors, signaling the possibility of criminal charges in the worsening calamity.

Obama also used his brief White House appearance to reiterate the government's commitment to plug the leak and purge the oil from the Gulf Coast. A virtual armada of people, ships and equipment has descended on the region and is dedicated to cleaning up the spill, he said.

"Until the well is stopped, we'll multiply our efforts to meet the growing threat and to address the widespread and unbelievably painful losses experienced by the people along the Gulf Coast," Obama said. "What's being threatened, what's being lost, isn't just the source of income, but a way of life; not just fishable waters, but a national treasure."

Obama's remarks came as BP undertakes its latest effort to stop the oil from escaping into the gulf. The company will deploy a containment dome in an effort to capture the oil, a maneuver that contains its own set of risks and is not guaranteed to succeed.

Over the weekend, BP abandoned an attempt to plug the leak by pouring heavy fluids into the hole, a technique known as "top kill."'

peter.nicholas@latimes.com

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