Press Gaggle by Press Secretary Robert Gibbs Aboard Air Force One En Route Louisiana

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1:51 P.M. EDT

MR. GIBBS:  Hey, guys.  So let’s go through a little of the schedule so we have a bit of a sense what we're working on.  I think that Ms. Hogan gave you guys the bait and tackle place -- it’s an OTR stop, so please hold that location until we arrive there -- okay? -- which I'll talk about in just one second. 

Q    Just for reporting, or even hold for people on the ground?

MR. GIBBS:  Yes, because, quite frankly, because the Service won't let us do it if it gets all out. 

So we're going to land at approximately 1:20 p.m. local time.  I have on my sheet who will be there.  I will double-check this with you once both we land and we get into the briefing, because sometimes, based on -- there’s been some trickier weather down here in the last couple days. 

Here’s who I have:  National Incident Commander Admiral Thad Allen; Governor Jindal of Louisiana; Governor Crist of Florida; Governor Riley of Alabama; Senator Vitter of Louisiana; Congressman Melancon of Louisiana; Congressman Cao of Louisiana; New Orleans Mayor Mitch Landrieu; EPA Administrator Lisa Jackson; several parish presidents, which I'll get -- I want to make sure who’s here -- and a woman named Tracy Wareing, and I'll talk about her in one second.

She works at the Department of Homeland Security.  She’s been dispatched here by FEMA to work through the BP claims process.  And let me go through that in a second.

All right, so he'll be greeted there.  We will move to the Field House at the airport where the President will meet with all of these guys.

At the bottom of that, we will do a full spray where the President will make some remarks.  Hogan and I haven’t seen it, but it’s likely it will just be seated.

MS. HOGAN:  It’s a very small room.

MR. GIBBS:  It’s a small room, so we’ll work on sort of how to set it up so everybody gets a chance -- it looks all -- you guys have good angles and such. 

The reason why that's important is they’ve made the call that we’re going to have to drive from New Orleans to Grand Isle, which is a 20-minute helicopter ride and a two-and-a-half hour drive.  So that is going to bump, as you can imagine, everything way back.  So the --

Q    Is that reportable?  Can we let people know that?

MR. GIBBS:  That we’re driving?

Q    Yes.

MR. GIBBS:  Yes, yes, you can.  So that's why we wanted to get some stuff in on the front end of this. 

On the back end of this, we will go to -- let me make sure I've got this right -- yes, it’s, for lack of a better term, a bait and tackle store -- again, you guys have the name, but let’s not put into the pool reports right now -- where we will meet with the mayor of Grand Isle, who the President also saw last week, as well as some folks that are from the area, to talk with him.  And we’ll do some -- we’ll open up the bottom of that, as well.  And we’ll have more on that when we get there again.

Q    So what can we say he’s doing in Grand Isle?

MR. GIBBS:  You can say meeting with locals and small business owners about the economic and environmental impacts of this spill.

Q    Can we say with the mayor?

MR. GIBBS:  Yes, yes.  And the mayor -- let me make sure -- I want to get this spelling -- here it is.  Mayor David Camardelle.  And we’ll get the names of the other participants as well.  With any luck, the weather that is holding us for the drive down will pass and we will helo back.  So we’ll get back to Washington around midnight.  Awesome.

Q    Will there be any other stops?

MR. GIBBS:  That’s undetermined at this point. 

So that is the range of the schedule at this point.  Let me take a few questions before we land.

Q    Can you say why Governor Barbour doesn’t seem to be coming to these things?

MR. GIBBS:  You know, he’s a regular participant on the calls that the White House does every -- daily.  I don’t know -- I hesitate to say what the schedule -- what his schedule is.  I would point you over to his folks.  Again, I think most of the governors -- all of the governors have been -- obviously there are days in which they have some scheduling conflicts, but I know that almost all of them have been on -- regular attendance on the calls that are done.  These calls include -- are conducted by Valerie Jarrett, and as well have Coast Guard on them.  Admiral Allen was not on this morning’s call because he was briefing at that time.

I want to get you a press release that the JIC put out which will sort of give you some definition around what Tracy Wareing is doing and what the operation does in helping to process folks through the BP claims process and ensure that their claims are dealt with in a timely and expedited fashion. 

DisasterAssistance.gov is a website that has been enhanced as of --

Q    Whoa!

MR. GIBBS:  It’s a great website.  (Laughter.)  It’s been enhanced in the last couple of days.  If you go to it, the first thing you’ll see is you can click on a link that will take you to pages on how to file BP claims and get answers to different questions and go through that process.  She will be, as I said, at the briefing today and with the President throughout the day to talk about some of the claims.

Q    Was she brought in because of dissatisfaction with how BP has been --

MR. GIBBS:  No, she was brought in -- I’ll get the exact timing -- she’s been there for several weeks, I believe.  Let me get the exact timing.  But we wanted to ensure that there was somebody at the government’s level ensuring that what was -- what BP had promised was actually being executed.  So the President suggested last week in his meeting with local officials that there be both Coast Guard and BP officials assigned at a county or parish level, depending on which jurisdiction.  And most of that I believe has been done so that there is somebody -- not just a person that deals with Alabama but a person that deals with both Mobile and Baldwin Counties; there’s a person in Escambia, which is the westernmost Florida Panhandle county and home for Pensacola.

Q    Do you have any updates on the riser package?

MR. GIBBS:  The last update we got was probably an hour or so ago -- everyone just hold on and we’ll hope they hit the runway -- was that they were making some slow progress.  They were doing this -- slowly beginning to take in more hydrocarbon but doing it at a pace that did not show a great accumulation of hydrate, as we saw in the earlier efforts with the larger top hat structure.

Q    That's the slush, right?

MR. GIBBS:  Yes, that’s the --

Q    Take in fewer hydrates, so it’s working better?

MR. GIBBS:  Taking in fewer hydrates.  Again, look, I’m long out of the prediction business on this.  Everyone is hopeful that this works.  We will get status throughout the day and over the next many hours as they evaluate the effectiveness of what’s going on.

Q    Robert, do you expect the President to be coming down here at least once a week going forward?

MR. GIBBS:  I don’t have the next schedule update.  I will try to find that.  I don’t anticipate that it -- the last time I checked the schedule he was not coming down here next week, but I will check for that.

Q    Why did you decide to cancel the Indonesia/Australia trip?

MR. GIBBS:  The President made a decision that with all that’s going on, particularly with our response right now, it would be difficult to go.  He called both leaders last evening, as you all saw, quite late, and we put out the statement that the President had decided to postpone that trip.

Q    When did he make that decision?

MR. GIBBS:  Final decision was probably made either late yesterday afternoon or early yesterday evening, and the calls were set up for -- he made those calls sometime probably after -- sometime between 10:00 p.m. and 11:00 p.m.  I don't know the exact time.

Q    Robert, why does the President want to come down here? Why does he feel it’s important to make these trips?

MR. GIBBS:  As I said yesterday, I think that -- we believe we made tremendous progress last week in dealing with some of the concerns that were being heard down here, that we were hearing and seeing firsthand.  I think the President always wants to be able to do that.  We met the first time he was down here, on the 2nd of May, with local fishermen who expressed their concern for what could be happening.  And at that point we had -- I think at that point, we had just made the first decision -- NOAA had -- to close a portion of the Gulf.  Obviously, a much larger portion of the Gulf has now been closed to fisheries -- to fishing. 

So being down here and talking -- and hearing directly from those impacted environmentally and economically, as I said, is important.  That's why the claims process is important.  The response process is important.  And getting a firsthand accounting of all that.

Q    Can I ask you -- Mary Landrieu has been pushing for a change in the revenue-sharing on offshore drilling in response to this.  Have you guys decided what you’re going to do?

MR. GIBBS:  After Katrina, Louisiana did receive some money as it related to offshore drilling, which may explain some of the consternation locally around pausing some of the deepwater drilling, though as I would say -- the reason I said “pauses,” none of those permits have been pulled; they’ve just been paused. So any revenue -- revenue might slide, but it’s not going to at this point be removed from the equation.

I would add one more thing.  The flow rate technical group, the group of scientists headed by Marcia McNutt, head of USGS, that was stood up to measure the flow rate, is looking at and trying to evaluate where we are in the flow rate after this sheer cut that you all know was executed yesterday.  So I don't know if we’ll get an update on that, but if we do, I’ll give it to you.  I will send updates to Katie when we first get in to make sure that I’ve got all the parish presidents, local officials that are there.

Q    One question on the Israel flotilla situation.  I know the U.S. backs international participation in an investigation.  It doesn’t seem like Israel’s government backs the same thing.  What kind of pressure are you guys putting on them to let  international participation --

MR. GIBBS:  We’ve had some discussions with them.  I think  -- let me make sure, because I have not checked my email on the flight.  I think there may have been some movement on that.  Let me check on that.

Q    Can you be more specific about -- when you say he’s meeting with local businessmen in the Grand Isle part --

MR. GIBBS:  Let me get the names and who they’re involved with and I'll get that to you ASAP.

Q    Is he going to see any oil here?  Is there any time for him to see what’s the latest --

MR. GIBBS:  Look, I think it’s coming closer and closer to Grand Isle.  I don't know if it’s in Grand Isle.  One of the things about the trip -- we had to go to a place on short notice that we’d previously been to, because we added this somewhat quickly and Service didn’t have time to come down before that.

All right?  Thanks, guys.

END
2:05 P.M. EDT