The future of new deep-sea oil exploration off the US coast rests on assurances that a disaster like the Gulf of Mexico spill will never happen again.
The stark warning came from President Obama as he unveiled a commission to investigate the incident. He also spoke for the first time of the possibility of a criminal investigation.
A month after the Deepwater Horizon rig exploded, killing 11 workers, crude is still gushing from the ruptured pipes.
Obama said: “We will continue to hold the relevant companies accountable, not only for being forthcoming and transparent about the facts surrounding the leak, but for shutting it down, repairing the damage it does and repaying Americans who’ve suffered a financial loss. But even as we continue to hold BP accountable, we also need to hold Washington accountable. This catastrophe is unprecedented in its nature and it presents a host of new challenges we are working to address.”
The rig operator BP has been accused of trying to conceal the true extent of the leak – some scientists believe 11-million litres of crude are spewing out per day. That is 14 times more than the company is saying.
About 24,000 people are involved in the effort to keep the shores of Louisiana and Alabama uncontaminated. BP said it would be at least Tuesday before the next attempt to stem the flow could begin.