ANN ARBOR, Mich.-- President Barack Obama made plans to visit the Gulf Coast on Sunday for a firsthand update on the worstU.S. oil spill in decades and Cabinet members leading the administration's response booked a heavy round of talk show appearances.
The White House announced Obama's trip as he headed to the University of Michigan to give the commencement address onSaturday. Word about where the president would go was expectedlater Saturday. He intended to take a smaller than usual entourage.
The underwater spill remained unstopped and impossible tomeasure, raising fears it could be pouring more oil into the Gulfthan estimated. The Coast Guard estimates that at least 1.6 milliongallons of oil have spilled since the April 20 explosion thatkilled 11 workers on an offshore rig. In the Exxon Valdez disaster,an oil tanker spilled 11 million gallons off Alaska's shores in1989.
Obama made no comment about the situation when he boarded ahelicopter at the White House for the short flight to Andrews AirForce Base or when he walked on the tarmac to Air Force One. He didnot speak to reporters on the flight to Detroit.
Obama has said his administration will do all that it can tobattle the spill, which came from a BP exploratory rig. The spillis already the worst in U.S. waters in decades.
Obama has relied on reports from agency chiefs and Coast Guardofficials since the magnitude of the spill became clear lateWednesday. Aides report he's been getting regular updates.
Interior Secretary Ken Salazar and Homeland Security SecretaryJanet Napolitano scheduled appearances on four Sunday morning talkshows to detail the administration's efforts in dealing with theenvironmental disaster.
Deputy press secretary Bill Burton said Obama got another updateearly Saturday before flying to Ann Arbor. On Friday, Obama orderedSalazar to conduct an immediate review of rig safety in the Gulfand report back within 30 days if any new technologies are needed.
He promised that no new offshore oil drilling leases will beissued unless rigs have new safeguards to prevent a repeat of theexplosion that unleashed the massive spill.
'We are going to make sure that any leases going forward havethose safeguards,' Obama said.
The step, however, was largely symbolic. No such leases arelikely to come up for approval for several months, and the reviewwas not expected to interrupt current drilling operations.
The spill came just weeks after Obama announced plans to open uplarge areas of the Eastern Seaboard and a part of the Gulf forpossible future oil drilling. And it's led to increasing calls toreconsider that initiative by environmentalists and coastal statelawmakers.
In his remarks Friday, Obama said he continues 'to believe thatdomestic oil production is an important part of our overallstrategy for energy security. But I've always said that it must bedone responsibly for the safety of our workers and ourenvironment.'
(Copyright 2010 by The Associated Press. All Rights Reserved.)