Melody BarnesMay 04, 2010
11:05 AM EDT
The applications are in. The public ratings have been tallied.
Now it’s time to announce which school will have President Obama as its graduation speaker.
The President launched the Race to the Top High School Commencement Challenge back in February to give the nation’s public high schools a chance to demonstrate their commitment to academic excellence, personal responsibility, and ability to prepare students to graduate ready for college and a career. The response was overwhelming. Over 1,000 schools submitted outstanding applications, and more than 170,000 people weighed in on the six finalists.
I couldn’t be prouder of these schools. Each of the finalists represents the best that American public education has to offer and has demonstrated tremendous dedication and grace throughout the competition. Thank you for all of you hard work.
This was a tough competition. The six finalists - Blue Valley Northwest High School in Overland Park, KS, Clark Montessori in Cincinnati, OH, Denver School of Science and Technology in Denver, Colorado, Environmental Charter High School in Lawndale, CA, Kalamazoo Central High School in Kalamazoo, MI and MAST Academy in Miami, FL- are extraordinary schools, and each has done a tremendous job over the past few months to demonstrate the unique aspects of their school.
In recognition of their extraordinary achievements, we will work to provide a Cabinet secretary or senior administration official to deliver the commencement address at each of the five schools not selected as the national winner.
Ultimately, there could only be one winner, and I’m thrilled about the President’s final choice.
Getting a good education is critical to each student’s future and to the future of the country. That’s why President Obama has made unprecedented investments in education reform through the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act and the Race to the Top.
These investments are designed to raise the bar and spur innovative techniques to help schools and students achieve success. The winner of the Commencement Challenge and all of the finalists are excellent examples of these kinds of innovations and creative problem solving.
Thank you to all of the schools who participated in the first annual Commencement Challenge and congratulations to our winner!
Melody Barnes is Director of the Domestic Policy Council.
Dan PfeifferMay 04, 2010
07:00 AM EDT
Loopholes are a lobbyist’s best friend.
As debate on the Wall Street Reform bill returns today to the floor of the Senate, lobbyists are working overtime to insert loopholes and special provisions into the bill. Back in March, Treasury Secretary Geithner made clear to the audience at the American Enterprise Institute the threat we face at this stage of the game:
“…watch this process closely, for it will be a test of our capacity as a nation to deal with complex and consequential problems. When you see amendments designed to weaken the basic protections of reform; when you see amendments to exempt certain types of financial firms or financial instruments from rules; ask why we should be protecting those private interests at the expense of the public interest.”
So to kick off this week of amendments and help you follow along, please take a look at the Top Ten Most Wanted Lobbyist Loopholes:
- Ok, Consumer Protection Rules are Fine… Just Don’t Enforce Them. The current bill would apply the same rules to providers of consumer financial services or products, whether the provider is a bank or a non-bank financial provider. The bill would also allow State Attorneys General to enforce those rules. Lobbyists are pushing hard to amend the bill so that Attorneys General lose their enforcement authority. Why does that matter? Because the Bureau would only supervise larger market participants. Without state AG enforcement authority, the citizens of their states will have much less protection against illegal conduct. If you want to weaken consumer protections, that’s one way to do it.
- Letting Non-Banks Play by a Weaker Set of Rules. We know this is coming, so keep an eye out: attempts to give car dealers that make car loans and other major providers of financial services a big exemption from the consumer protection rules. Now be aware: some people try to scare small businesses by saying that the consumer financial protection bureau will regulate main street businesses like orthodontists and florists. That is not true. But if a car dealer makes loans, or if a big department store sets up a financial services center, it’s doing what banks and credit unions do, and it should play by the same rules.
- If You Can’t Kill Consumer Protection Now, Starve it to Death Later. One of the keys to effective consumer protection is having a consumer financial protection bureau that is independent. And one of the keys to independence is having an independent source of funding. So be prepared for attempts to take away the bureau’s source of funds. And also watch out for broader attempts to restrict the bureau’s independence or chip away at its ability to establish clear rules of the road for a fair and transparent consumer financial marketplace.
- Preventing States from Protecting Their Own Citizens. Under the current bill, the Bureau of Consumer Financial Protection would set minimum standards for the consumer finance market, but states would still be allowed to adopt additional protections. In other words, federal consumer protections would set a floor, not a ceiling. There’s likely to be a fight about that provision. Citing the doctrine of “preemption,” big banks will try to take away states’ ability to supplement federal consumer protections. Why is this a problem? Because state officials are often the first to learn of new abuses and new problems in the marketplace, and we should not get rid of that canary in the coal mine. Federal law can overrule or “preempt” state law when a state law would significantly interfere with national banks’ business of banking, but states should otherwise have the right to protect their citizens as they see fit.
- Removing the Derivatives Trading Requirement to Protect Wall Street Profits. Under the current bill, standard derivatives would have to be traded on exchanges or other electronic trading platforms. Expect amendments to eliminate this trading requirement. Why? Because not everyone likes transparency. Today, the big derivatives dealers make big profits by charging end-users extra spreads and hidden fees, and they don’t want that to change.
- Stretching the Derivatives “End-User” Exemption into a Hedge Fund Loophole. Under the current bill, there is a narrow exemption from the derivatives clearing and trading requirement for commercial firms that are not financial companies, not major participants in the derivatives market, and that are using derivatives to hedge their real risks – not taking one-way bets like AIG. Be on the lookout for attempts to stretch this exemption into a loophole – for example, by saying that the exemption should apply hedge funds and other financial companies.
- Creating an “AIG Loophole.” Under the current bill, the Financial Services Oversight Council would have the ability to designate a very large “non-bank” financial company – like AIG, for example – for tougher supervision by the Federal Reserve. Since one of the key principles of financial reform is that firms should be regulated according to the risks they pose, not according to their corporate form, this is an important provision. But rest assured, there are large “non-banks” out there who would rather not be scrutinized quite so closely.
- Who Needs to Know What’s Happening at Insurance Companies? Insurance is regulated by the states, not the federal government – and this bill doesn’t change that. But this bill would give the Treasury Department the ability to collect information from insurance companies so that it can help identify emerging risks before they blow up the financial system – like AIG. After so many insurance companies got into so much trouble that they needed government support to survive, you’d think that would be a no-brainer. But not everyone agrees. Keep an eye out for loopholes that would protect insurance companies from a number of provisions in the bill – including even basic information gathering.
- Letting Firms Make Loans Without Skin in the Game. A key lesson of the crisis is that firms in the mortgage business should have a stake in the loans they sell or securitize. Skin in the game gives strong incentives to make good quality loans. Mortgage industry lobbyists are pushing hard to kill this idea. It’s cheaper for mortgage lenders and Wall Street to be in the mortgage business if they don’t have to worry about the borrower’s ability to pay – but it’s a lot more costly for Americans to perpetuate the same system that helped cause the housing crash.
- Preserving “Too Big to Fail” While Pretending to Kill It. The key to preventing future bailouts is to end the problem of “Too Big to Fail.” And the only way to do that is to make sure that we can shut down big financial firms in a swift, orderly way if they’re on the brink of failure. Of course, not everyone wants to see “Too Big to Fail” disappear, since it lets the biggest firms borrow money at lower cost and avoid the consequences of excessive risk-taking. But no one wants to be caught defending the status quo. So defenders of the status quo are using a sleight of hand: pushing to make the resolution process so unwieldy that it can never work. By proposing amendments that look tough but that make the resolution process unworkable, opponents of reform will try to save “Too Big to Fail” while pretending to kill it.
Dan Pfeiffer is White House Communications Director
Jesse LeeMay 03, 2010
08:44 PM EDT
Below is the latest update on the spill in the Gulf Coast from the Joint Information Center:
Dan PfeifferMay 03, 2010
07:38 PM EDT
The wait is almost over.
Tomorrow morning at 11 AM EDT, we’ll announce President Obama’s selection for the winner of the first annual Race to the Top High School Commencement Challenge. If you want to be among the first to know where he’s going, make sure you are on the White House email list.
One very lucky high school will have one very memorable commencement speaker– President Obama – and we are working to provide a Cabinet secretary or senior administration official to deliver the commencement address at each of the five schools not selected as the national winner. The Commencement Challenge kicked off in February with over 1,000 schools submitting applications demonstrating how they are promoting academic excellence and preparing their students to graduate college and career-ready. After a thorough evaluation that narrowed those applications down to six finalists, more than 170,000 people weighed in and helped us narrow the field down to three schools – Clark Montessori Jr. & Sr. High School in Cincinnati, Ohio, Denver School of Science and Technology in Denver, CO, and Kalamazoo Central High School in Kalamazoo, MI.
The top three finalists are now on President Obama’s desk awaiting a final decision. Which one will he choose? Join the email list or check out WhiteHouse.gov/Commencement tomorrow at 11 AM EDT to find out.
Dan Pfeiffer is White House Communications Director
Jesse LeeMay 03, 2010
06:59 PM EDT
This afternoon, President Obama presented the Commander-in-Chief’s trophy to the U.S. Naval Academy football team for their seventh consecutive win. The President joked that after consulting White House counsel, the team was “only allowed to come back here one more time before it’s somebody else’s turn.” He congratulated them for seven straight wins against Air Force and eight against the Army, calling it an impressive win for “one of the biggest rivalries in sports, period.”
The President congratulated quarterback Ricky Dobbs for setting the NCAA rushing touchdown record at 27, and joked that Ricky’s announcement for presidency in 2040 was a bit much. “But it does mean that when Navy comes back for the Commander-in-Chief’s Trophy 30 years from now, you might hear a speech from this guy,” the President told the team. He also praised co-captain Ross Pospil for organizing a toy drive last year during a snow storm, thanking the team for their compassion and generosity.
In the end, it’s the willingness to put others above yourselves that sets this team -– and all the service academies -– apart. Your days are packed with morning inspections and a full load of classes, football practice, and military duties. And oftentimes, you’re lucky if you can get a few minutes to yourselves before studying into the night.
But you do it because each of you has a higher calling -- to serve your country in a time of war. As Ross says, “We are always going to be remembered for what we have done on the football field. That’s all well and good. But we want to make a difference outside Bancroft Hall, and outside the Academy walls.” And that I think is the kind of ethic that makes us all so proud.
In a few short weeks, 32 of you will have that chance when you become officers in the United States Navy and Marine Corps. Last year, I was honored to attend the Academy commencement and see firsthand the incredible spirit that drives every Midshipman at Annapolis -- in addition to getting two chest bumps.
Secretary Steven ChuMay 03, 2010
05:06 PM EDT
Today, First Lady Michelle Obama and I have the distinct pleasure of lending a hand at the National Science Bowl - an impressive display of the scientific talents of our young people. Over the past few days, students from sixty-eight high school teams and thirty-seven middle school teams have competed for the championship titles by answering questions in a range of scientific disciplines, including biology, chemistry, earth science, physics and astronomy, and math.
I have been going to Science Bowls for many years, and I always come away hopeful for America's future. I know the First Lady would agree that the knowledge and dedication of these students is inspiring. Read the First Lady's remarks here.
Competitions like this one are important because America's leadership tomorrow depends on how we educate our students today. We need a bold new generation of scientists and engineers to make America competitive in this century. Only by having our best and brightest young people pursue careers in science and engineering can America compete for the high-wage, high-tech jobs of the 21st century. We also face an unprecedented challenge to our very way of life from a changing climate, and we need this generation to help find new solutions to the energy and climate problem. In fact, all of the great challenges we will face in this century will require science and innovation to meet them.
Steven Chu is the Secretary of Energy
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May 03, 2010
02:17 PM EDT
At the University of Michigan’s Spring Commencement, President Obama discussed the nature of politics in our democracy which he said has “never been for the thick-skinned or the faint-of-heart.” He talked about pundits and politicians who call each other all sorts of names and continue to debate about the role and size of government, but reminded the audience that “our experiment in democracy has worked better than any form of government on Earth.”
The President talked about the importance of healthy debate to maintain a basic level of civility, reminding the audience that “we can’t expect to solve our problems if all we do is tear each other down.” He explained that over-the-top rhetoric and vilification sends signals to the extreme sides that violence is a justifiable response.
You can disagree with a certain policy without demonizing the person who espouses it. You can question somebody’s views and their judgment without questioning their motives or their patriotism. Throwing around phrases like “socialists” and “Soviet-style takeover” and “fascist” and “right-wing nut” that may grab headlines, but it also has the effect of comparing our government, our political opponents, to authoritarian, even murderous regimes.
Now, we’ve seen this kind of politics in the past. It’s been practiced by both fringes of the ideological spectrum, by the left and the right, since our nation’s birth. But it’s starting to creep into the center of our discourse. And the problem with it is not the hurt feelings or the bruised egos of the public officials who are criticized. Remember, they signed up for it. Michelle always reminds me of that. The problem is that this kind of vilification and over-the-top rhetoric closes the door to the possibility of compromise. It undermines democratic deliberation. It prevents learning –- since, after all, why should we listen to a “fascist,” or a “socialist,” or a “right-wing nut,” or a left-wing nut”?
It makes it nearly impossible for people who have legitimate but bridgeable differences to sit down at the same table and hash things out. It robs us of a rational and serious debate, the one we need to have about the very real and very big challenges facing this nation. It coarsens our culture, and at its worst, it can send signals to the most extreme elements of our society that perhaps violence is a justifiable response.
The President encouraged the audience to actively seek information that challenges their beliefs in order to “begin to understand where the people who disagree with us are coming from.”
[I]f you’re somebody who only reads the editorial page of The New York Times, try glancing at the page of The Wall Street Journal once in a while. If you’re a fan of Glenn Beck or Rush Limbaugh, try reading a few columns on the Huffington Post website. It may make your blood boil; your mind may not be changed. But the practice of listening to opposing views is essential for effective citizenship. It is essential for our democracy.
He closed by saying that the nation's destiny has never been certain and reminded them of their "ability to shape that destiny."
That is what makes us Americans -– our ability at the end of the day to look past all of our differences and all of our disagreements and still forge a common future. That task is now in your hands, as is the answer to the question posed at this university half a century ago about whether a free society can still compete.
If you are willing, as past generations were willing, to contribute part of your life to the life of this country, then I, like President Kennedy, believe we can. Because I believe in you.
May 03, 2010
12:00 PM EDT
Ed Note: Aaron Moore earned a perfect score on the National Financial Capability Challenge, an awards program announced in December by Treasury Secretary Geithner and Education Secretary Duncan, designed to promote financial education among high school students across the country. He has made several speaking engagements and national media appearances discussing the topic of financial literacy and serves as the president of Future Business Leaders of America for the state of Maryland. He will enter Villanova University in the fall to study Business Administration.
Students are given opportunities and choices; I was given an opportunity like no other, to speak at the Treasury Department along side of Treasury Secretary Timothy Geithner and Education Secretary Arne Duncan. From beginning to end I was engaged, enlightened, and excited. The halls of the Treasury truly represented what it means to be American, full of marble, wood, and gold, the building materials of our founding fathers.
The experience of the day is attributed solely to financial literacy education, the topic of my speech. We gathered in the legendary Cash Room to celebrate and honor financially literate students, while recognizing that we still have a long way to go in financial education.
I cannot say how many times I heard “In the wake of today’s economic crisis.” However, the reason that quote was used so many times is it is absolutely true that in today’s economic standing that the future leaders of our country and controllers of our economy must understand finance in order to prevent financial disaster.
Students must learn what IRA’s and 401(k)’s are. They must also learn how to properly invest their money. Most importantly, they must know how much they can afford to pay in mortgage every month and not be taken advantage of by corporate policies that earn profit and not consumer trust. There are too many American children who do not know how to establish credit, make a budget, or even write a check.
Some school districts have realized this and implemented a financial literacy course as a graduation requirement, but not all have taken heed of the economy’s recent message. President Obama often talks about not wanting our healthcare system to be a sick care system, but preventative. The exact principle applies to education, making it preventative. We, as a country, can avoid such economic disasters with financial knowledge.
In addition to the classroom, there are exciting ways for students to learn by experience and competition through Career and Technology Student Organizations (CTSO). One such organization is Future Business Leaders of America (FBLA), a national student business organization with over 215,000 members. In FBLA, students are able to learn and apply knowledge to win awards and scholarships, while also networking with other students at regional, state, and national conferences.
My experience in financial education has been unique and I can credit my experiences for my achievement of a perfect score on the National Financial Literacy Capability Challenge. Taking classes in World Finance, Economics, Financial Planning, Banking and Credit, and International Finance have helped me gain the knowledge I needed and having a parent in the financial industry, interning at a bank, and serving as President of Maryland FBLA have also given me the experiences of a lifetime.
I encourage all students to take advantage of the financial courses offered at their school, join a CTSO and receive that knowledge that is available to them because not only does it benefit their financial well-being, but it also benefits the country’s. Additionally, I hope that the National Financial Capability Challenge continues for many years because it honors students for their achievements, promotes financial education, and encourages them to be knowledgeable.
Secretary Gary LockeMay 03, 2010
11:07 AM EDT
When President Obama unveiled his innovation policy last year, he said, “In our increasingly interconnected and globally competitive world economy, unleashing innovation is an essential component of a comprehensive economic strategy…[T]he greatest job and value creators of the future will be activities, jobs, and even industries that don’t exist yet today."
To help spur the industries and jobs of tomorrow, the U.S. Department of Commerce’s Office of Innovation & Entrepreneurship today announced the i6 Challenge – where we will award up to $1 million each to six winning teams with the most innovative ideas to drive technology commercialization in their regions.
How well America moves ideas out of the research lab and into the marketplace will help determine whether we remain the most competitive and vibrant economy in the world. And we want to hear the best ideas from entrepreneurs, investors, universities, foundations, and non-profits across America.
The i6 Challenge is being administered by the Department’s Economic Development Administration (EDA). We are also partnering with the National Institutes of Health (NIH) and National Science Foundation (NSF), who have pledged to award up to $6 million in additional funding to their Small Business Innovation Research grantees that partner with i6 Challenge winners.
That’s a total of $12 million that will be working to help bring innovative ideas to market quicker.
I encourage anyone interested in participating in the i6 Challenge to submit their application by the July 15, 2010 deadline. For more information, please go to www.eda.gov/i6 where you can learn more about a special conference call for potential applicants on May 17, 2010.
Gary Locke is the Secretary of Commerce
Dan PfeifferMay 03, 2010
10:50 AM EDT
The Affordable Care Act includes a number of important provisions that will put you – not the insurance companies – in control of your health care. And as the New York Times points out today, the new law is already prompting an end to some of the worst insurance company practices. The Times notes:
Americans are already starting to see the benefits of health care reform. The new law requires health insurance companies — starting in September — to end their most indefensible practice: rescinding coverage after a policyholder gets sick. In recent days insurers and their trade association have rushed to announce that they will end rescissions immediately.
That is very good news for the thousands of people who each year pay their premiums but lose their coverage just when they are likely to run up big medical bills.
The announcement regarding rescissions was yet another piece of good news for consumers. In recent week, insurers have been responding to the new law. The Times writes:
This follows a recent agreement by many companies to start letting dependents stay on their parents’ policies until age 26, which isn’t required until September. Under pressure from the White House, the industry has also agreed to cover children with pre-existing medical conditions as soon as new rules are issued.
Many of the other major provisions of reform don’t kick in until 2014, but it is already changing the behavior of insurers. That means more security for many Americans who might otherwise find insurance unaffordable or unavailable.
Dan Pfeiffer is White House Communications Director
Jesse LeeMay 02, 2010
07:09 PM EDT
[UPDATE 5/5/10 5:55AM: Read a thorough timeline on the Administration's response since Day 1.]
[UPDATE 5/4/10 3:24PM: Dan Pfeiffer posts on the Administration's commitment to making sure BP pays, and support for legislation raising the cap on damages for oil companies.]
[UPDATE 5/3/10 8:46PM: Read the comprehensive update from the Joint Information Center for May 3, 2010.]
[UPDATE 5/3/10 6:55PM: A readout of the President and Admiral Allen’s call with local government officials in the Gulf Coast Region.]
[UPDATE 5/3/10 5:53PM: Press Secretary Robert Gibbs spoke more on the details of ensuring BP pays for the costs of the spill in his Monday briefing.]
[UPDATE 5/2/10 9:30PM: Learn more from Press Secretary Robert Gibbs' briefing aboard Air Force One on the return trip from the Gulf Coast.]
The President spent the day touring the Gulf Coast area and getting a first-hand look at the ongoing response from the federal government to the BP oil spill (the EPA has also dedicated a site to keeping the public up to date on that response). After speaking to Admiral Thad Allen, who is serving as National Incident Commander, along with Coast Guard personnel, the President gave an update from Venice, Louisiana. After commending the police officers and citizens of New York who reacted so swiftly to the incident in Times Square, he spoke at length on the terrible situation surrounding the spill:
May 02, 2010
09:09 AM EDT
President Obama made his second appearance at the annual
You might have heard we passed a health care bill. And some Republicans have suggested that the bill contains a few “secret” provisions. That’s ridiculous. There aren’t a few secret provisions in the health care plan. There are like hundreds. And tonight, in the interest of transparency, I’d like to share a couple. Let’s see here. This provision is called the “Bay State of Denial.” It reads, “This bill shall cover short-term memory loss related to the passage of Massachusetts health care reform.” Good news, Mitt, your condition is covered! This next provision is called the “Jersey Shore-Up.” It reads, “The following individuals shall be excluded from the indoor tanning tax within this bill: Snooki, J-Woww, the Situation, and House Minority Leader John Boehner.” This provision ought to put a common misconception to rest. It says right here: “If you do not like the ruling of your death panel, you can appeal it.”
He concluded his remarks before Leno took the stage with a reminder of the necessary role of the fourth estate:
Some of you are seasoned veterans who have been on the political beat for decades. Others here tonight began their careers as bloggers not long ago. But I think it’s fair to say that every single reporter in this room believes deeply in the enterprise of journalism. Every one of you, even the most cynical among you, understands and cherishes the function of a free press in the preservation of our system of government and our way of life. And I want you to know that for all the jokes and occasional gripes, I cherish that work as well. In fact, tonight, I wanted to present you all with a bipartisan, Congressional resolution that honors all those wonderful contributions that journalists have made to our country and our world. Unfortunately, I couldn’t break the filibuster.
The President also noted his ongoing concerns for the BP oil spill and the residents of the Gulf Coast. He will be traveling to the region later today.
Robert GibbsMay 01, 2010
02:55 PM EDT
The response to the BP Oil Spill began as an emergency search and rescue mission by the U.S. Coast Guard and other partners on April 20.
Concurrently, command center operations were stood up immediately in the Gulf Coast to begin also addressing the environmental impact of the incident.
The morning after the explosion, Secretary of the Interior Ken Salazar deployed Deputy Secretary David J. Hayes down to the gulf to assist with coordination and response to the incident.
The Administration immediately began holding regular calls with BP leadership and numerous senior-level meetings have been held between the administration and BP to discuss BP's response effort and federal oversight and support.
The National Response Team (NRT), an organization of 16 federal departments and agencies responsible for coordinating emergency preparedness and response to oil and hazardous substance pollution incidents was quickly activated and a coordinated group of federal partners-including the United States Coast Guard, Departments of Homeland Security, Commerce, Interior and the Environmental Protection Agency-immediately began directing and overseeing BP's response.
The President immediately began actively monitoring the incident and consulting on the response. The President has been in contact with all the governors of the states that may be affected and ordered that the administration use every single available resource at our disposal.
The Department of Defense is fully integrated into the DHS-led team and fully supportive of all response activities. Navy assets have been involved since day #1, and the Coast Guard and Department of Defense continue to work closely together, anticipating requirements, identifying response options, and rapidly providing response support.
The Secretary of Defense has approved a request for two C-130 aircraft with Modular Aerial Spray Systems (MASS), which are currently en route to the affected area. The Coast Guard has requested assistance from the Department of Defense for these aircraft.
These aircraft dispense the same dispersant chemical being used by BP and the federal responders. Each system is capable of covering up to 250 acres per flight with three flights per aircraft per day.
Additionally, in direct support of the Coast Guard under an existing pollution clean-up and salvage operations agreement, the Navy is providing a variety of oil pollution control equipment. The Navy has sent thousands of feet of inflatable oil boom with mooring equipment, several skimming systems, related support gear, and personnel to support oil spill response efforts. Naval Air Station Pensacola is serving as a staging facility for Coast Guard contractor-provided equipment.
To prepare for the possible spreading of the oil slick across the Gulf Coast and in support of the 2nd Unified command Center in Mobile, Ala., Department of Defense is airlifting additional boom materials to Mobile later today. The booms are currently located on four tractor trailers to expedite transportation on the receiving end.
Early on, the President directed responding agencies to not only devote every resource to respond to this incident but to also determine its cause. Earlier this week, Secretary of Homeland Security Janet Napolitano and Secretary of the Interior Ken Salazar laid out the next steps for the investigation.
The President has also dispatched Secretary Napolitano, Secretary Salazar, EPA Administrator Jackson, Assistant to the President for Energy and Climate Change Policy Carol Browner and NOAA Administrator Jane Lubchenco to the Gulf Coast to ensure all is being done to respond to this oil spill.
Secretary Napolitano announced that this incident is a spill of national significance, the Department of Interior has announced that they will be sending SWAT teams to the Gulf to inspect all platforms and rigs, and the EPA is conducting air monitoring activities to gather information on the impact of the controlled burn on air quality.
As part of the designation of the BP Oil Spill as a Spill of National Significance, Secretary Napolitano has announced that U.S. Coast Guard Commandant Admiral Thad Allen will serve as the National Incident Commander for the administration's continued, coordinated response—providing additional authority and oversight in leveraging every available resource to respond to the BP oil spill and minimize the associated environmental risks.
As National Incident Commander, Admiral Allen will continue to work closely with Coast Guard Rear Admiral Mary Landry, the federal on-scene coordinator, and the Departments of Homeland Security, Defense, Interior and Commerce, the Environmental Protection Agency and other federal departments and agencies as appropriate—as well as BP, the responsible party in the spill—to ensure the efficient continued deployment and coordination of vital response assets, personnel and equipment that were activated immediately after the spill began.
To keep the public informed about the latest, validated environmental air and water sampling results, EPA has launched a dedicated website at www.epa.gov/bpspill, which will also provide information on the broader federal response.
In response to the BP oil spill, the Secretary of Defense is authorizing under title 32 the mobilization of the Louisiana National Guard to help in the ongoing efforts to assist local communities in the cleanup and removal of oil and to protect critical habitats from contamination. As the responsible party in this incident, the government will hold BP accountable for the costs of the deployment.
The Minerals Management Service remains in contact with all oil and gas operators in the sheen area. Two platforms have stopped production and one has been evacuated as a safety measure. Approximately 6.2 million cubic feet of natural gas is shut-in—less than one-tenth of a percent of daily gas production in the Gulf of Mexico.
As the nation’s leading scientific resource for oil spills, NOAA has been on the scene of the BP spill from the start, providing coordinated scientific weather and biological response services to federal, state and local organizations. NOAA spill specialists are advising the U.S. Coast Guard on cleanup options as well as advising all affected federal, state and local partners on sensitive marine resources at risk in this area of the Gulf of Mexico.
Rapid response teams are staged to deploy to shorelines affected by oil to evaluate and determine an appropriate clean-up effort to minimize the impact to the environment.
A volunteer program has been established and a toll-free number—(866)-448-5816—set up for people to call to learn about volunteer opportunities in all areas and what training is required.
By the Numbers to Date:
- Personnel were quickly deployed and nearly 2,000 are currently responding to protect the shoreline and wildlife—hundreds more than yesterday.
- Approximately 75 response vessels have been responding on site, including skimmers, tugs, barges, and recovery vessels to assist in containment and cleanup efforts—in addition to dozens of aircraft, remotely operated vehicles, and multiple mobile offshore drilling units.
- More than 275,000 feet of boom (barrier) have been deployed to contain the spill—an increase of nearly 60,000 feet since yesterday. An additional 316,470 feet is available.
- More than 1 million gallons of an oil-water mix have been recovered—an increase of approximately 150,000 gallons since yesterday.
- Nearly 143,000 gallons of dispersant have been deployed—an increase of more than 3,500 gallons since yesterday. An additional 68,300 gallons are available.
- Six staging areas (Biloxi, Miss., Pensacola, Fla., Venice, La., Pascagoula, Miss. and Theodore, Ala., and Port Sulphur, La.) were set up to protect sensitive shorelines.
Robert Gibbs is White House Press Secretary
May 01, 2010
11:54 AM EDT
Ed. Note: Yesterday the President made a statement on the first quarter 2010 GDP numbers in the Rose Garden, joined by representatives and workers from U.S. manufacturers including A123 Systems, a Massachusetts based advanced battery manufacturer, that are expanding production and hiring as a result of Recovery Act investments in innovation and technology. Electrical Engineer James Fenton joined the President on-stage and shared his story following the event.
I had the honor of being invited to the White House to speak with President Obama about how the Stimulus has impacted my life.
After working as an engineer for 25 years at an Oregon-based company, I was laid off in October of 2009. With two kids in college, I was under pressure to find a job to pay for their education, which is a top priority for me.
After sending out countless resumes to companies in the Pacific Northwest, I knew that I had to look elsewhere to find a job. I reached out to a former colleague, who is now working for A123 Systems, a company that produces lithium ion batteries for use in electric vehicles. I was offered three months of contract work so I kissed my wife good-bye, told her I would see her in three months and got on a plane to Michigan.
After three months of contract work at A123, I was brought on full-time in March. A123 was able to hire me full-time because of the money that it received as part of the Stimulus Act. I am now in the process of moving my family from the Pacific Northwest to Michigan, one of the hardest hit states, for a job that was there because of Recovery Act dollars.
I feel extremely lucky to be a part of A123 – a company where people have a sense of pride and ownership in their work and a strong passion for what they are doing. We want to build the best lithium ion batteries in the world and we want to help Michigan get back on its feet.
On a personal level, my father, a lifelong Michigan resident, was hired by Ford Motor Company to work on electric vehicles in 1967. He retired in 1992 and that same year I left Oregon for Michigan to work at Ford – building electric vehicles. My father said to me at the time: “There’s always got to be a Fenton working on electric vehicles.”
Even in 1967, my father recognized that electric vehicles were the future of the automotive industry. He understood that the electrification of vehicles would reduce our dependence on foreign oil and make our planet a better place to live.
After several years I left Ford and moved back to the Pacific Northwest. When I was laid off and had the opportunity to join A123 Systems to work on the breakthrough battery technology that has been the elusive missing link for electrification since my Dad’s days at Ford, it was as if everything was falling into place.
I am fulfilling my father’s dreams of working to bring the vehicles of tomorrow to the world today, and I’m doing it on American soil.
Only a few short months ago, I was unemployed and wondering how I was going to continue to pay for my children’s education. Today, I was standing with President Barack Obama in the Rose Garden at the White House because of the small part that I am playing in the greening of our automotive industry. And a Fenton is again building electric vehicles -- I know that my father would be proud.
James Fenton is an Electrical Engineer at A123 Systems
Jesse LeeMay 01, 2010
06:00 AM EDT
As the President beats back lobbyists seeking to weaken Wall Street Reform, he talks about an even broader threat that would vastly expand the influence of massive industries and their lobbyists in Washington. A recent Supreme Court decision opened the floodgates for corporations, including foreign corporations, to spend endless money on political ads that would give them even more power at the expense of American families – the President pledges to fight for reforms to stem that influence.
A unique view of 2012