TODAY   |  April 30, 2010

Coast Guard providing ‘direct oversight’ of BP

Adm. Sally Brice O’Hara tells TODAY’s Ann Curry that the Coast Guard is using all Federal assets to fill in the gaps of oil spill cleanup in the Gulf of Mexico.

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This content comes from Closed Captioning that was broadcast along with this program.

>> anne thompson , thank you so much. rear admiral sally o'hara is with the u.s. coast guard and is helping oversee the government 's response to the spill. admiral, good morning.

>> good morning, ann.

>> louisiana 's governor has said at least ten wildlife areas, not to mention important fisheries of oysters and also shrimp, are now lying in the path of this oil. with oil now lapping ashore, with all that you have done, is the question now not weather louisiana will be damaged, but only how much?

>> well, i want to assure you that the federal response has been sustained. it was immediate. and we know that we have a situation that has got to have every resource put towards it. there is 180,000 feet of boom that the responsible party , bp , has put into place to protect those wetlands and fragile ecosystems.

>> admiral, but as "the new york times " is putting it this morning, the response as intensified abruptly on thursday with the federal government now intervening more aggressively. given that this now threatens to become the worst oil spill in u.s. history , do you believe -- do you think that you did enough early enough?

>> with the announcement yesterday of this being a spill of national significance, we have improved our abilities to bring every aspect to bear. we have good coordination. we are flowing assets to meet the requirements. the responsible party , bp , has a number of skimmers, aircraft dropping dispersements, boats deploying persons, booms, workers and other assets in place.

>> admiral, let me interrupt you for a second. as we just heard from anne thompson , bp 's no closer to plugging this leak than it was from the very beginning. some might really ask why this response is driven by british petroleum which has had to admit the amount of oil leaking is actually five times what it originally said, admiral. do you trust the company to continue to direct this, or is it time for the federal government to step in?

>> the federal government has been actively managing --

>> but should it now take the lead is what i'm asking?

>> the coast guard is the federal on-scene coordinator. we are providing direct oversight, close oversight of all of the actions of bp . everything that they undertake is approved and we are filling in any gaps that we see with federal assets. we look across the whole of government and use all federal assets, as well as supplemented by state and local and private industry .

>> what are your orders from the president, from president obama , given, as "the washington post " notes, he won election in part on the belief that he would do a better job than the previous administration did on hurricane katrina ?

>> it's clear from the president's comments and mandates that this is high priority. we are going to bring every resource to bear. we have skimming operations. dispersements that are being deployed. booming operations. we are taking every step necessary to ensure that we bring every resource in that's appropriate to the extent of this spill and to the type of oil that we're dealing with.

>> given how hard this job is, admiral, i'd like to get your response to a quote from the national oceanic and atmospheric administration official who said, "i am frightened. this is a very, very big thing and the efforts that are going to be required to do anything about it, especially if it continues on, are just boggling." admiral, let me ask you, you know the depth of this. you know that it could be three months before that leak is plugged. are you frightened?

>> this is a very serious situation. british petroleum is working aggressively to find alternatives. we hope within the next week that they'll be able to put a cap at the leak site so that we can take that oil up to the surface through a hose and have it put on to a barge so that we don't have the release into the water. meanwhile, they're working today on drilling an alternative well so that they can close down this source. so there are a number of technologies that bp is pursuing to stop this leak.

>> we wish you luck. rear admiral sally brice-o'hara, thank you so much for talking with us this morning.

>> let's bring in david gregory ,