Obama vows justice if laws broken in oil spill

Obama, speaking to reporters after meeting the co-chairs of a new oil spill commission, also said energy giant BP would be held accountable for financial losses from what he called the "greatest environmental disaster of its kind in our history."

"What is being threatened, what is being lost isn't just a source of income but a way of life," Obama said, with former Senator Bob Graham and former Environmental Protection Agency chief William Reilly at his side in the White House Rose Garden.

U.S. Attorney General Eric Holder made his first visit to the Gulf coast to view the damage ahead of what experts have said will be a criminal probe into the explosion and oil spill that could produce record fines.

"We have an obligation to investigate what went wrong and to determine what reforms are needed so that we never have the experience of 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," he said.

"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."

Obama spoke just days after BP's latest attempt to plug its blown-out seabed well failed, sparking fears oil could leak into the Gulf until August. The company is now planning a risky attempt to place a cap over the leak to funnel oil to the surface.

Obama pledged to continue pursuing all efforts to plug the blown-out oil rig until relief wells are completed.

He said it was critical for the commission to take a comprehensive look at how the oil and gas industry operates and how the government oversees them.

[Source: Reuters, Washington, 01Jun10]

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