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Document”> The White House has demanded BP pays in full for the Gulf of Mexico oil spill. The White House has also “significantly” backed increasing the cap on damages faced by companies that pollute the environment,

Under a law introduced after the Exxon Valdez oil tanker disaster in Alaska in 1989, oil companies are bound by law to pay for the full clean-up and containment costs of any oil seeping from their facilities after an accident.

However the legislation caps damages for which the firm is liable at 75 million dollars unless the company is guilty of “gross negligence.” Bills introduced in the House and the Senate would fix the cap at 10 billion dollars.

White House Press Secretary Robert Gibbs has said “We would be in favour of significantly lifting that cap,” but did not specify if the White House accepted the 10 billion dollar limit.

“I don’t have a specific number. I would reiterate that as the president said, BP is going to get a bill for the recovery, the cleanup and the damage it’s caused.” Gibbs said.

Democrats said the bill they introduced in the House would be retroactive to cover the oil spill in the Gulf of Mexico.

BP should pay for every last cent

“In a fair and just world, companies like BP should pay for every last cent of the mess they’ve made, not taxpayers, not the tourism industry, not the fishing industry, not small businesses,” said Representative Rush Holt, one the bill’s sponsors.

BP has already offered cash grants of 25 million dollars for US states facing costly cleanup efforts and said that it will “absolutely” live up to its responsibilities to pay for the clean-up operation.

It has also said it will honour all “legitimate” claims stemming from the slick, which is threatening precious fishing grounds, wildlife habitats and beaches along the southern US coast.

BP leased the Deepwater Horizon oil platform that blew up and sank in April in the Gulf of Mexico from Houston-based contractor Transocean.

The accident killed 11 workers and left an oil well gushing thousands of barrels of oil a day into the ocean.

As it kept up the pressure on BP, a tactic it has referred to as keeping its “boot on the throat” of the British energy giant, the White House issued a detailed defence of its actions to counter an environmental disaster.

A 7,000 word document described every briefing, order, and comment by the administration since the explosion on April 20.

The White House said it released the document on its blog to provide Americans with a “clear understanding” of the government effort.

Officials reject parallels with Hurricane Katrina

Officials have consistently rejected parallels with Hurricane Katrina, in 2005 when the Bush administration was slow to respond to an evolving disaster and have also denied they relied too heavily on rig operator BP.

The chronology said the government response to the spill began immediately after the explosion, with a search and rescue mission, and the establishment of a command centre to assess possible environmental damage.

President Barack Obama was also alerted and began “actively monitoring the situation,” the document said.

The summary goes on to relate the dispatch of officials, ships and helicopters to the scene of the accident over the next few days, as a search and rescue operation morphed into a damage limitation effort.

But senior Republican lawmaker Mike Pence accused the administration of not pre-positioning sufficient resources in the Gulf Coast region which would have been able to ramp up a response in the event of an incident.

“The people of this country deserve to know what happened on April 20th to cause this accident,” Pence told reporters, in a new sign Republicans may seek to gain political traction over the disaster.

“The American people deserve to know why the administration was slow to respond and why the necessary equipment was not immediately available in the region.”

Summary reveals White House had first meeting on April 21

The White House summary showed the administration held its first meetings with the leadership of the British energy giant on April 21, as the extent of the accident, which cost the lives of 11 oil workers, became clear.

That was the day that Interior Secretary Ken Salazar and Homeland Security Secretary Janet Napolitano opened a probe into the cause of the disaster.

The chronology concludes with details on the operation as of Tuesday, showing that 200 response vessels were now deployed, along with 367,881 feet of boom to try to protect vulnerable coastlines.

Some 7,500 personnel were on station to respond to the unfolding disaster.