Oil from the offshore spill in the Gulf of Mexico has washed ashore including in ecologically rich areas of Louisiana. About 5,000 barrels or 210,000 gallons a day of oil are estimated to be flowing from the well, and it could take up to 90 days to stop the spill. The total amount of oil from the spill could exceed the 1989 Exxon Valdez disaster in Alaska. The spill followed an explosion on April 20th at an offshore drilling rig that killed 11 workers. Residents along the Gulf are preparing for disruption, including shrimp and oyster fisheries, and Gov. Bobby Jindal of Louisiana has declared a state of emergency. Jindal listed at least 10 wildlife refuges in Louisiana and Mississippi in the path of the oil that are likely to be impacted, warning that billions of dollars in coastal restoration could be wasted. The President meanwhile has said he will use “every single available resource at our disposal” to contain and address the spill. The Navy has been called in to help with containment. Making it difficult is that the oil is arising from approx. 5,000 ft. below the ocean surface, and currents break apart the oil, spreading the slick out. It is now estimated to be over 100 miles wide on the ocean surface. With weekend storms in the Gulf expected, more oil will reach coastlines along Gulf Coast states.
On Capitol Hill, Sen. Bill Nelson (D-FL) said he would introduce legislation to block the Interior Department from acting on the administration’s recently announced proposal to expand offshore drilling. He also called for a halt to test wells and other exploratory operations in coastal waters. Two House panels, including the Committee on Energy and Commerce, plan to investigate or hold hearings on the accident. The oil spill is also affecting the proposed Senate bill on energy and climate. In garnering votes, backers of the proposed bill included provisions for expanding offshore oil exploration and drilling. The provisions have now come under increased scrutiny and should require Congress to rethink whether they should be part of a bill to increase domestic energy production while addressing environmental impacts of energy including climate change. Images Courtesy of Reuters, AP