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Obama to Force BP to Create Fund for Victims of Oil Spill?

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This post originally appeared in the Washington Monthly.

The White House announced last week that President Obama will tomorrow make his fourth trip to the Gulf coast since the BP oil spill crisis began, and we learned this morning that the two-day visit will culminate inĀ  a prime-time address to the nation. It will be the president's first Oval Office address.

Apparently, the remarks will be moreĀ  than just a status check.

President Obama for the first time will address the nation about the ongoing oil disaster in the Gulf of Mexico on Tuesday night and outline his plans to legally force BP executives to create an escrow account reserving billions of dollars to compensate businesses and individuals if the company does not do so on its own, a senior administration official said on Sunday.

"The president will use his legal authority to compel them," said Robert Gibbs, the White House spokesman.

Mr. Gibbs did not elaborate on the legal basis for such a move but said that White House lawyers have been researching the matter for days. The president is seizing the initiative after reports on Friday from London that BP would voluntarily establish an escrow account -- either for compensating victims or for delaying a planned dividend for BP shareholders -- turned out to be less certain than the White House initially thought.

The escrow account that the White House envisions would be roughly modeled after the fund established for victims of the terrorist attacks on Sept. 11, 2001, and it would be administered by a third party to provide greater independence and transparency and to guard against the company too narrowly defining who is entitled to payments and how much.

I guess there's no real mystery as to whose ass is getting kicked.

Thad Allen, meanwhile, is demanding BP officials craft "a faster plan" to collect gushing oil, with "greater redundancy and reliability." A response from the company is expected later today.

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