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Spill response leader: 'Touch and go' through hurricane season

By Ethan Harp, CNN
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Hurricanes and oil slicks
STORY HIGHLIGHTS
  • Government point man Allen: We have a plan
  • Flow will increase before cap is put on
  • Allen on BP: Trust but verify

(CNN) -- President Barack Obama's point-man on the Gulf oil spill disaster Tuesday said the federal government has a plan if the spill is not stopped before a hurricane or tropical storm hits the Gulf of Mexico.

That plan includes "directing BP (to bring) in stronger vessels that can withstand heavier weather, and we have a contingency plan on how that will be broken off and what we can do," Coast Guard Adm. Thad Allen told John Roberts on CNN's Campbell Brown.

"It's going to be touch and go through the hurricane season," Allen said on the first day of the Atlantic hurricane season.

Allen also said that BP's newest method designed to stop the flow -- a remote-controlled submarine cutting into the well followed by a cap over the breach -- could increase the leak by 20 percent in the short term.

"We have a dispersant plan and a hydrocarbon management plan. There is a period of increased flow while we put the cap on," said Allen.

Allen became the sole official voice of information at news briefings Tuesday when the federal government announced it would not long hold joint briefings with oil giant BP and tapped the admiral, who last week ended his four-year term as Coast Guard commandant, as the face of the government response.

When asked if the change was meant to distance the government from BP, Allen said the real reason "was to get me out so the American public can see what we're doing out here."

Video: When oil and hurricanes collide
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"I do a lot of traveling throughout the week and, rather than having a brief from a command post or a stage setup with the cameras, I think it's good for the American people to know where we're at and what we're doing," he said.

But Allen also said that when it comes to trusting the oil giant, he thought of the late President Ronald Reagan's credo "of trust but verify."

"The fact of the matter is they have a responsibility and we have to be relentless in our oversight," said Allen. "I don't have an issue of (BP Chief Executive Officer) Tony Hayward bringing tough issues to him."

Asked about Monday's announcement by Attorney General Eric Holder of a criminal investigation into the oil spill, Allen explained, "I think we need to understand what happened before the accident, what happened after it, and the details associated with that ... we need to find out exactly what the facts are, and the facts will take us to where we need to go."

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