Finally: Obama to Meet BP Chairman


obamaBP’s chairman Carl-Henric Svanberg has been summoned to a meeting with President Barack Obama next Wednesday to answer questions about the Gulf of Mexico oil spill, an official letter said. Svanberg, a¬†Swede, was invited to the meeting on June 16 with other company officials, but the White House did not demand to see BP CEO Tony Hayward, who Obama has said he would fire, if he could, over flippant comments.

“The BP Deepwater Horizon spill is the largest environmental disaster in our nation’s history,” said the letter to Svanberg from Thad Allen, a Coast Guard admiral who is leading the US government’s response to the crisis.

“The potential devastation to the Gulf Coast, its economy, and its people require relentless efforts to stop the leak and contain the damage,” it said.

Allen pointed out that BP was financially responsible for all costs associated with the response to the disaster, including efforts to plug a ruptured undersea well and protecting the coastline from a massive oil slick.

“As part of our ongoing communication, I request that you and any appropriate officials from BP, meet with senior administration officials on Wednesday, June 16, 2010 to discuss these timely issues,” the letter said.

“Our administration is not going to rest or be satisfied until the leak is stopped at the source, the oil in the Gulf is contained and cleaned up, and the people of the Gulf are able to go back to their lives and their livelihoods.”

Obama’s political opponents have piled criticism on the president for his failure to so far meet, or talk by telephone with Hayward, who has become the public face of the disaster for BP.

The president’s spokesman Robert Gibbs earlier Thursday parried questions about the failure to meet Hayward, and said that the firm’s chairman was a more logical choice for any meeting.

“The corporate structure of the company makes the chairman of the board the relevant entity in approving the obligations that BP has to live up to,” said Gibbs.

Obama told NBC on Tuesday that he would have fired Hayward for remarks downplaying the massive Gulf oil spill, including a much-publicized comment that he “would like my life back.”

Hayward was also criticized for an earlier prediction that the spill would be “very, very modest.”

“He wouldn’t be working for me after making any of those statements,” Obama said.

But the president also explained why he had not spoken to Hayward.

“When you talk to a guy like a BP CEO, he’s going to say all the right things to me. I’m not interested in words. I’m interested in actions.”

{AP/Noam Newscenter}