Yesterday, I visited Caminada Bay in Grand Isle, Louisiana -- one of the first places to feel the devastation wrought by the oil spill in the Gulf of Mexico. While I was here, at Camerdelle's Live Bait shop, I met with a group of local residents and small business owners.
Folks like Floyd Lasseigne, a fourth-generation oyster fisherman. This is the time of year when he ordinarily earns a lot of his income. But his oyster bed has likely been destroyed by the spill.
Terry Vegas had a similar story. He quit the 8th grade to become a shrimper with his grandfather. Ever since, he's earned his living during shrimping season -- working long, grueling days so that he could earn enough money to support himself year-round. But today, the waters where he has worked are closed. And every day, as the spill worsens, he loses hope that he will be able to return to the life he built.
Here, this spill has not just damaged livelihoods. It has upended whole communities. And the fury people feel is not just about the money they have lost. It is about the wrenching recognition that this time their lives may never be the same.
These people work hard. They meet their responsibilities. But now because of a manmade catastrophe -- one that is not their fault and beyond their control -- their lives have been thrown into turmoil. It is brutally unfair. And what I told these men and women is that I will stand with the people of the Gulf Coast until they are again made whole.
That is why, from the beginning, we have worked to deploy every tool at our disposal to respond to this crisis. Today, there are more than 20,000 people working around the clock to contain and clean up this spill. I have authorized 17,500 National Guard troops to participate in the response. More than 1,900 vessels are aiding in the containment and cleanup effort. We have convened hundreds of top scientists and engineers from around the world. This is the largest response to an environmental disaster of this kind in the history of our country.
We have also ordered BP to pay economic injury claims, and this week, the federal government sent BP a preliminary bill for $69 million to pay back American taxpayers for some of the costs of the response so far. In addition, after an emergency safety review, we are putting in place aggressive new operating standards for offshore drilling. And I have appointed a bipartisan commission to look into the causes of this spill. If laws are inadequate, they will be changed. If oversight was lacking, it will be strengthened. And if laws were broken, those responsible will be brought to justice.
These are hard times in Louisiana and across the Gulf Coast, an area that has already seen more than its fair share of troubles. The people of this region have met this terrible catastrophe with seemingly boundless strength and character in defense of their way of life. What we owe them is a commitment by our nation to match the resilience they have shown. That is our mission. And it is one we will fulfill.
President Barack Obama
Sunday, 6 June 2010