(CNN) – President Obama is defending his administration's reaction to the Gulf Coast oil spill and says he is keeping the heat on BP to compensate victims of the disaster.
“From the beginning, we’ve mobilized on every front to contain and clean up this spill. I’ve authorized the deployment of 17,500 National Guard troops to aid in the response,” Obama said in his weekly radio and internet address, taped during his trip to the Gulf Coast region Friday. “More than 20,000 people are currently working around the clock to protect waters and coastlines. We’ve convened hundreds of top scientists and engineers from around the world. “
“We’ve also ordered BP to pay economic injury claims, and we will make sure they pay every single dime owed to the people along the Gulf Coast,” Obama added. “The Small Business Administration has stepped in to help businesses by approving loans and allowing deferrals of existing loan payments. And this week, the federal government sent BP a preliminary bill for $69 million to pay back American taxpayers for some of the costs of the response so far.”
Obama returned to Louisiana Friday - the president's second trip to the Gulf region in two weeks as the administration continued its efforts to contain the BP oil spill and stay on top of what has now become a major political issue.
Among other things, Obama visited Louisiana's Grand Isle and meet with local business leaders directly impacted by the spill. Shortly after arriving, he huddled with U.S. Coast Guard Adm. Thad Allen - the federal government's response manager - and both state and local elected officials.
Included in the list of officials meeting the president: Louisiana Gov. Bobby Jindal, Alabama Gov. Bob Reilly, Florida Gov. Charlie Crist, Louisiana Sen. David Vitter and New Orleans Mayor Mitch Landrieu.
Obama's latest visit came as BP finally started to siphon oil from the ruptured undersea well. BP is currently preparing to shut four vents on top of a containment cap from which oil has been escaping into the ocean. Closing the vents would greatly reduce the amount of oozing crude.