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Obama to Address Nation Tuesday Night on Gulf Oil Spill

Obama picks up tar ball on Gulf beach

May 28: President Obama picks up a "tar ball" during a tour of areas impacted by the Gulf Coast oil spill in Port Fourchon, La. He returns to the region on Monday.AP2010

President Obama will address the nation Tuesday night to talk about the Gulf of Mexico oil spill as the White House prepares a plan to require oil giant BP to set up an escrow account to pay for lost income to local businesses as a result of the April 20 explosion. 

The 8 p.m. ET speech will take place from the White House shortly after the president returns from a two-day trip to the Gulf. 

The president is expected to address efforts to contain the spill, the timeline for capturing the oil, the long-term recovery and restoration of the Gulf region and regulatory reform efforts at the Mineral Management Service.

"This is an ongoing crisis, much like an epidemic," David Axelrod told NBC television's "Meet the Press."

The 10-15 minute speech will provide more details about a BP escrow fund the president wants established for fishers and trawlers whose livelihoods have been shot as a result of the spill. The administration wants a third-party reclamation process rather than BP managing distribution of funds.

The next day, the president will make clear in his meeting with BP Chairman Carl-Henric Svanberg and others about his expectation of BP's responsibility for caring for people affected by the spill.

"Our mission is to hold them accountable in every appropriate way," Axelrod said.

The speech comes as the Obama administration faces criticism for a slow reaction time to the Gulf spill, including the approval for the construction of barriers and assistance to the states. At the same time, frustration is growing about the slow pace of the cleanup and BP's inability to stop the flow while the estimates on the leak have grown exponentially.

On Sunday, Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid sent a letter signed by 54 Democratic senators to BP CEO Tony Hayward demanding his company create a $20 billion account to pay for economic damages and cleanup costs. Currently, lawmakers are debating how much to change the law that limits a company's liability to $75 million.

"Establishment of this account would serve as an act of good faith and as a first step towards ensuring that there will be no delay in payments or attempt to evade responsibility for damages," the 54 senators wrote.  

"Although creating this account at this level in no way limits BP's liability, we believe it will do more to improve BP's public image than the costly public relations campaign your company has launched," the senators wrote. 

BP's board is to meet on Monday to discuss deferring its second-quarter dividend and putting the money into escrow until the company's liabilities from the spill are known.

The amount of money set aside will be part of White House discussions with BP executives on Wednesday, but Axelrod said it should be "substantial."

The Associated Press contributed to this report.