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Sen. David Vitter takes aim at BP, Coast Guard over Gulf oil spill cleanup
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Sen. David Vitter takes aim at BP, Coast Guard over Gulf oil spill cleanup

U.S. Sen. David Vitter, R-La., alleged Tuesday that BP is "actively trying to walk away" from its obligations to clean up the Gulf oil spill, and that the Coast Guard is not doing enough to hold the British oil giant responsible.

The state's junior senator also took aim at the Coast Guard, which is in charge of the oil spill cleanup, saying that it has "developed too cozy a relationship with BP."

Vitter made the remarks during a meeting of the Senate Environment and Public Works Committee at the Louisiana Supreme Court building in New Orleans.

The committee heard testimony about the region's recovery more than two years after BP's Macondo well exploded, killing 11 rig workers, spilling hundreds of millions of gallons of oil and causing one of the worst environmental disasters in U.S. history.

Louisiana officials have been pressing for BP to set up a long-term plan to monitor the coast, and for the Coast Guard to return to areas that were declared to be oil-free but where oil has reappeared.

Saying that Hurricane Isaac has unearthed weathered oil from the 2010 Deepwater Horizon spill, Vitter and Garret Graves, chairman of the state's Coastal Protection and Restoration Authority, said the Coast Guard still has work to do, and the agency should take a more proactive approach to cleaning the region's beaches and wetlands.

"There is plenty of oil out there and it's coming ashore based on weather," Vitter said.

Coast Guard Capt. Duke Walker said his agency is not dodging its responsibilities and is "in no way interested in ending" the spill cleanup prematurely.

Walker said the Coast Guard is responding to sightings of oil that washes ashore and is cleaning it up, but is not actively looking for it.

Ray Melick, a spokesman for BP's Gulf Coast Restoration Organization, said the oil company did not participate in Tuesday's hearing because of concerns over pending litigation.

Melick said in a statement that BP has spent "nearly $15 billion and 66 million man-hours on the response and cleanup, and our work continues."

"In light of the constraints imposed by these legal proceedings, BP is unable to participate," he said.

After the hearing, Vitter said the day's testimony had not alleviated his concerns.

"I think BP is clearly trying to get out of Dodge, and get out of fulfilling all of its cleanup responsibilities," he said, "and I'm very concerned that the Coast Guard is letting them get away with it on a lot of specific issues."

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