In the days since the BP oil spill began, the failure to stop the leak has caused incredible anger and frustration -- especially for the people of the Gulf Coast struggling to survive one of the worst environmental disasters in our nation's history.
This leak is an unprecedented catastrophe and a technical challenge unlike any we've ever seen. We are pressing for every possible remedy to keep oil from flowing into the Gulf, and to capture as much as we can while relief wells are drilled that will permanently stop the leak. We are relying on a team of scientists and experts from our own laboratories and from around the world -- led by our Energy Secretary and Nobel Prize-winning physicist Steven Chu. And we've ordered BP to send additional equipment to facilitate the capture of oil and the capping of the well.
But with so much oil already in the Gulf, and more likely to spill before this catastrophe is over, we are also doing everything in our power to protect the coastline.
The federal government is in the midst of the largest cleanup effort in the nation's history. I have authorized 17,500 members of the National Guard, and more than 24,700 people are currently working around the clock, across four states, to help contain the oil and clean the mess. More than 5,500 vessels are assisting in the effort, and more than 5 million feet of boom are soaking up oil and protecting habitat.
BP has now captured more than 4.6 million gallons of oil from the Gulf waters -- in addition to 3.8 million gallons of oil burned and 18.5 million gallons of oily water skimmed from the surface. And we have approved the construction of new barrier islands, paid for by BP, to try to stop oil before it reaches shore.
Ultimately, BP is responsible for causing this horrific disaster, and we will hold the company fully accountable and demand that it pay back every dime for the damage caused and lives disrupted. BP has agreed to cover the costs for the people, property and natural resources impacted by the spill -- and we will make sure it delivers on that promise.
BP has set up a website -- www.bp.com/claims -- and a toll-free number -- 1-800-440-0858 - open 24 hours a day, seven days a week for people to file their claims.
We are pushing BP to do everything possible to pay out those claims quickly. For those who find themselves running into a wall with BP, we also have a team on the ground to make sure BP is meeting its responsibilities. Anyone having trouble with BP should call the Coast Guard at 1-800-280-7118, and further assistance is available through a host of other sources outlined at www.disasterassistance.gov.
But, beyond the current disaster, we have an obligation to prevent a tragedy like this from ever happening again. I've named an independent commission to determine what steps need to be taken. Where the laws are insufficient to prevent another spill, we'll change them. Where oversight is inadequate, we'll strengthen it.
In addition, the Justice Department has launched a criminal investigation into the explosion, and the Department of the Interior is overhauling the Minerals Management Service, the agency responsible for overseeing oil drilling in this country, so that those responsible for the safety of the oil rigs and the protection of our coasts are not under the thumb of the oil companies.
I understand the frustration and anger that the people of the Gulf Coast are feeling. I share it. But instead of allowing feelings of anger and frustration to overwhelm our efforts, we must stay focused on the work at hand.
We owe it to the people of the Gulf to bring this ordeal to an end, and we owe it to the American people to make sure it never happens again.
About Oceanic Defense
We are an international non-profit organization with members in over 60 countries, spanning 6 continents with 1 mission; healthy aquatic ecosystems free from human abuse and neglect. Oceanic Defense teaches people to protect our oceans by acting responsibly as consumers and by making smart decisions in our daily lives. Whether we are buying groceries, commuting to work, planning a vacation or advocating within our own communities; each action we take or decision we make either helps or hurts our oceans. We empower people to be part of the solution rather than part of the problem and work together to protect our blue planet.
Join us on Facebook:www.facebook.com/OceanicDefense
Visit our official website:www.oceanicdefense.org
Follow us on Twitter:www.twitter.com/OceanicDefense