BILOXI, MS. - The incoming CEO of BP said Friday, his company will begin to scale back some oil response operations.
"Where there's no oil on the beaches, you probably don't need people walking up and down with Hazmat suits, so you'll see that kind of a pull back, but commitment, absolutely no pullback (on that)," said Bob Dudley.
Dudley is a Mississippi native who, for now, his heading up BP's oil response efforts. In October, he takes over as the company's CEO.
Dudley fielded a wide range of questions Friday morning and several times, in several different ways, said that his company will do the right thing to clean up and fix the Gulf Coast.
"We've had some good news offshore," Dudley said. "That doesn't mean we're done. We'll be here for years."
BP oil began flowing into the Gulf after the Deepwater Horizon explosion back on April 20. A temporary cap stopped the flow of oil on July 15. Now, debris left behind by Tropical Storm Bonnie will temporarily delay the next step, the static kill. During the static kill, heavy mud and cements are pumped into the well.
"I'm hopeful that by Tuesday the static kill will have been performed,” said Dudley. “Then there's the relief well after to really kill it. We think that will happen by the end of the month of August."
How much oil is in the Gulf now is up for debate. Several Louisiana leaders, including St. Tammany Parish President Kevin Davis have argued that million of gallons of oil are underwater, waiting to surface.
"We haven't found that," Dudley said.
Dudley said six ships and the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration are working to locate underwater oil.
"It's a big hunt going on right now," Dudley said. "It's going to keep going on."
Dudley also acknowledged problems in the claims process, which he vowed to fix.
"We've been asked by the White House to transfer the claims process to an independent facility which will happen sometime before the end of August," Dudley said. "We need to get this moving as fast as we can."
Dudley said BP has now written more than 80,000 checks for more than a quarter of a billion dollars, but he said, the entire process is new to BP.
"It's not been perfect," Dudley said. "Paperwork demands are something we're learning. That lack of competency on our part, which is why we want to bring in a professional like Ken Feinberg."
Friday, BP announced the hiring of James Lee Witt to help in the Gulf Coast oil reponse. Witt was the FEMA Director under President Bill Clinton.
"For the oil and gas industry, this is a real wake up call for change in terms of safety equipment," said Dudley. “I think one of the things I've learned through this is that skimming technology is way behind for an event like this. Ocean skimmers are just not in enough abundance, and the technology is not good enough."
Dudley said, beach cleanup is far from done. He said, after they are sure no more oil is coming to the surface, they'll thoroughly clean the beaches, especially problematic beaches in Alabama and Louisiana, to get any oil under the surface.
And Dudley said, he knows at this point, many people will be skeptical of anything BP says.
"There's sometimes in life where you just have to do it by action," Dudley said. "Trying to tell everybody what you're doing just may not be that effective, you just have to do it. I think actions speak louder than words, and that's what we're going to keep doing and commit to."
"I have seen communities come back stronger and better than ever before," James Lee Witt added. "I know that's what Bob is trying to do here, and we're going to be at their side and at your side to make that work."