LONG BEACH, MS (WLOX) - The new chief operating officer for BP came to South Mississippi Tuesday to say his company will be here for a long time.
Mike Utsler, a native of Oklahoma, takes over the job Doug Suttles had for quite some time. Suttles has largely been the face of the company since the Deepwater Horizon explosion, but now he returned to company headquarters in Houston.
Utsler came here for a couple of reasons. One was to see what BP is calling the new "strike team" trailers that will be used to respond quickly to beach clean up activities. In the past they have used large buses, but now they can be more mobile.
Utsler also wanted to talk with some BP workers and meet with the local media. Although the clean up work has been scaled back, he pointed out to reporters that more than 30 thousand people are still involved in the clean up efforts.
"Going forward, it is continuing to work on the barrier islands, which are much more challenging in terms of access," he said. "We still have the tar balls on our beaches as well, and that will be our continuing response."
Repeatedly, Utsler emphasized one theme: BP will see this crisis through to the end. When asked what his company could have done better, he would only say how proud he is of the many people working for BP in this ongoing effort.
Concerning the fishermen who have been very vocal in saying they are still seeing oil in the Gulf, Utsler said his researchers see no evidence of it now. However, he also pointed out that they will continue to test the waters and will be quick to respond if and when they do see oil.
Utsler also said BP is spending $500 million dollars on research and analysis to better understand what longer term effects the oil disaster may cause.