By Ben Geman - 06/02/10 09:19 PM EDT
Biden offered a vigorous defense of the White House response to the oil spill that federal officials say has eclipsed the Exxon Valdez disaster as the largest spill in U.S. history. But the administration may have erred in not communicating about its actions clearly enough, he said.
“We were there the first day, the first morning after that well had blew and that platform collapsed. We were in the Oval Office. He mobilized everyone in the White House in the West Wing, made it clear that every single asset of the federal government should be made available,” Biden said.
Biden gave a list of administration actions, such as immediately authorizing the National Guard response and mobilizing thousands of other personnel, and a quick review of offshore drilling safety, among various other steps.
Biden said he thinks that BP “have done the best they could” in responding to the April 20 explosion of the Deepwater Horizon rig and subsequent spill. But he also repeated administration criticism that BP has downplayed the amount of oil gushing from its ruptured well.
“The one place that they were slow in my view was in characterizing the number of barrels of oil that are spewing from that pipe 5,000 feet down. And that's why we did it independently, because there is a vested interest in BP concluding there's a lower number,” Biden said.
Attorney General Eric Holder said Tuesday that the Justice Department has launched criminal and civil probes in connection with the spill.
Biden acknowledged that he “shouldn’t make judgments” about why the BP-leased rig exploded, but added “my guess is that there are all kinds of discussions about whether or not they pushed the envelope with the rig operator beyond what it should be pushed to safely pursue.”