U.S. Coast Guard Commandant Adm. Robert J. Papp answered critics of the Coast Guard’s response to the BP oil gusher Wednesday, saying the nation wasn’t ready for the disaster, which has left crude spewing into the Gulf of Mexico since April 20.
He also said a federal law limiting deployments for reservists might force the Coast Guard to lean on the National Guard for help during the long response to the disaster.
Papp met with reporters after a flight over the Mississippi Sound on Wednesday. He fired back at those who have criticized the Coast Guard.
“There has been criticism, and it always hurts to be criticized,” Papp said. “What I would say is there has never in the history of our country been an environmental disaster of this size. No one in the world has ever had to deal with an oil spill like this — one that does not stop, continues every day and has gone on for 80 days. There were lessons to be learned and frankly, I don’t think this country, as a whole, was prepared for an environmental disaster like this.”
Papp, who became commandant in May, said he believes some of the criticism is probably being lobbed out of frustration that the gusher hasn’t been plugged yet.
Papp flew over the Sound accompanied by U.S. Rep. Gene Taylor. Originally, Coast Guard officials approached local media outlets about flying with the commandant, but those outlets were notified Tuesday evening the last seats on the flight would go to Taylor and his staff instead. Following the flight Papp spoke about several oil response–related issues.