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From the staff of the Tampa Bay Times

Sen. Bill Nelson says Obama must reorganize oil spill response effort



President Barack Obama needs to restructure the federal government's response to the massive Gulf of Mexico oil spill, said Sen. Bill Nelson Friday during a press conference in St. Petersburg.

"This command structure is not working and they are going to have to change it," Nelson said. "The President is not being well served now by the existing command structure because it is breaking down. There is no one person in charge. Everybody says Admiral Allen is in charge, but BP is in charge of all the claims and so you have a system that is irritating people all up and down the coast." 

BP should answer to the federal government instead of the government deferring to BP, he said.

Obama needs to create a "military chain of command type structure with somebody at the top that is responsible," Nelson said.

Nelson stopped short of directly criticizing Obama.

"The president has done everything he can do and unfortunately he was in the vulnerable position that BP is the only one that has the technology to try to cut off the well," Nelson said. "We better make sure that never happens again."

He also criticized oil giant BP and the Department of Homeland Security for restricting the media's access to the oil spill.

"The only way we are going to solve this problem is we are going to have get everything up on the table, be upfront and transparent," Nelson said.

Nelson said he supports oil drilling in the Gulf of Mexico when it is properly regulated.

"You can't shut off this production. We have to have that oil until we change from a petroleum-based energy economy," he said.

Nelson was at the University of South Florida St. Petersburg to support an ongoing call for BP to give $100 million to be split between 21 state schools and marine science organizations toward research. The money would be used to study where the oil is going and how it behaves in the water and on the seabed.

BP already promised to contribute $500 million toward research. Florida leaders want their share immediately.

[Last modified: Thursday, September 9, 2010 10:42am]


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