New head of Gulf spill cleanup says he's concerned Americans are rushing to judgment

NEW ORLEANS (AP) — The man who inherited the Gulf oil spill response from BP's embattled CEO said Wednesday that Americans have been too quick to blame his company for the environmental disaster now in its third month.

"I'm somewhat concerned there is a bit of a rush to justice going on around the investigation and facts," BP PLC managing director Bob Dudley said after touring a New Orleans wildlife conservation center where sea turtles sickened by the spill are being treated.

The Mississippi native said BP has been unusually open about making its internal investigation public and shared information that no other company would.

More work must be done, he said, before blame is assigned for the April 20 explosion of the offshore drilling rig Deepwater Horizon, which set off the worst oil spill in U.S. history. BP was leasing the rig from owner Transocean Ltd.

"So I think there is yet a lot to be done in terms of assessing responsibility," he said. "I think BP is one of those responsible parties, but time will tell."

Wednesday was Dudley's first day leading the new Gulf Coast Restoration Organization, which is in charge of cleaning up the mess.

"I hope it's a real signal to the country and the Gulf states that we are putting in place something that will last for years — once we stop the well, clean it up, restore the Gulf — and the only way to do that is with a permanent organization," he said.

He said he spent most of the day at the spill command center reviewing where the oil was going, boom placements and other details.

Speaking with reporters at the Audubon Center for Research of Endangered Species, Dudley said his job now is to assure people that BP is in the cleanup effort for the long term and to listen carefully to their concerns.

He takes over for British CEO Tony Hayward, who has made a series of public blunders, including taking a break from the cleanup to attend a yacht race in England and saying he would "like my life back."