*President Barack Obama will make his fourth visit to the Gulf region on Monday and Tuesday, and then address the nation on Tuesday night from the White House regarding federal response to the environmental catastrophe caused by the oil spill, his senior adviser said Sunday.
Obama will make stops in Theodore, Alabama; Gulfport, Mississippi, and Pensacola, Florida, according to senior administration officials. After returning from the two-day trip, Obama will make a televised statement from the Oval Office on the night before he is scheduled to meet with top BP officials.
David Axelrod, the senior adviser to Obama, said the president would push BP to create a BP-funded escrow account that will pay for damage claims from the worsening oil spill. In addition, Axelrod said, the plan would call for an independent third party to handle the claims process.
“The president will use every legal device at his disposal to make sure that this money is escrowed and that there is an independent administrator so that claims are not slow-walked, people can get the relief they need in a timely fashion and that we don’t create more victims from this terrible disaster,” Axelrod told reporters.
Meanwhile, Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid is circulating a letter among his caucus that calls for BP to create a $20 billion account to pay oil spill clean-up costs and damages.
The letter to BP Group Chief Executive Tony Hayward, signed so far by 54 members of the Senate Democratic caucus, notes that the damages from the smaller Exxon Valdez spill in Alaska’s Prince William Sound amounted to $7 billion, but Exxon paid far less for damages while continuing to make major profits.
“In order to ensure BP fully and quickly covers the cost of this disaster, we are calling on BP to immediately establish a special account of $20 billion, administered by an independent trustee, to be used for payment of economic damages and clean-up costs,” the senators’ letter says.
The White House has asked U.S. television networks for time to broadcast Obama’s address at 8 p.m. ET on Tuesday. According to the White House, the address is expected to be about 15 minutes long and cover the Gulf oil crisis, including reorganization at the Mineral Management Service in the Interior Department and how much oil is flowing from the broken well at the bottom of the Gulf of Mexico.
In addition, the address will look ahead to the president’s meeting with BP executives on Wednesday, the White House said.
The decision for Obama to make a major address to the nation on the Gulf oil spill came together Friday and Saturday, according to senior administration officials. Just days before, the White House had indicated no such address was in the works for the very near future.