The Obama Administration Thursday has escalated its response to the oil spill in the U.S. Gulf of Mexico following the April 22 sinking of Transocean's Deepwater Horizon in approximately 5,000 ft of water.
Making headway toward the Gulf coast state of Louisiana, the Macondo oil spill was declared a "state of emergency" by Louisiana Gov. Bobby Jindal Thursday. Current winds are driving the widening oil spill closer to land, faster than anticipated.
Officials estimate that the oil spill will affect some ecologically sensitive coastal areas by Thursday evening, with the bulk arriving on Friday. In the oil's direct path are ten wildlife refuges in Mississippi and Louisiana.
Taking additional measures, the U.S. Interior Department has ordered that all offshore rigs be reviewed for safety in light of what has been deemed a national disaster. Federal authorities have pledged a robust response to contain "a spill of national significance," Homeland Security Secretary Janet Napolitano said at a White House briefing.
Specifically, a command center has already opened in Robert, Louisiana. A second will open in Mobile, Alabama, Secretary Napolitano confirmed.
White House officials have also noted that the future of President Obama's plan to allow expanded drilling in the eastern Gulf of Mexico could depend on the cause of the Deepwater Horizon's blowout, which remains under investigation.
Response activities at full throttle
BP has so far been unsuccessful in shutting off the well's oil flows using remotely operated underwater vehicles at the scene. As part of the operator's plans, Transocean's Development Driller III has been mobilized for the drilling of a relief well to secure the Macondo exploration well. Drilling operations are expected to commence within 48 hours.
Following yesterday's in situ burn on portions of the oil slick, the Coast Guard intended to conduct another controlled burn today, but sea and wind conditions are currently prohibiting this option.
Officials said late Wednesday the estimated amount of oil spewing into the Gulf from three underwater leaks has increased to as much as 5,000 barrels, or 210,000 gallons, a day -- five times more than the initial figure. The revised spill estimate was made public by the U.S. National Oceanic & Atmospheric Administration (NOAA).
To date, some 250,000 gallons of oily water have been collected from the scene.
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