Gulf of Mexico oil reaches coast; White House calls spill event of "national significance"

Published 30 April 2010

Gulf oil spill reaches Louisiana shore; cost of clean up is estimated at $8 billion; DHS secretary Napolitano declares the spill an event of “national significance,” opening the door for increased federal involvement; Louisiana declares state of emergency

Oil from a massive spill in the Gulf of Mexico began to wash ashore along the Gulf Coast Thursday evening after BP asked the U.S. government for help cleaning up the mess. According to the AP, faint fingers of oily sheen could be seen lapping at the Louisiana shoreline.

ABC reports that earlier, BP asked the U.S. Department of Defense for advanced imaging technology and other equipment to help contain the spill, which the Obama administration labeled earlier today as an event of “national significance.”

DHS secretary Janet Napolitano said during the White House briefing that designating the spill as one of “national significance” means that “we can now draw down assets from across the country” to assist with cleanup. She said 1,100 people are working on the cleanup effort, which so far has collected 685,000 gallons of oil and water from the polluted Gulf.

Earlier Thursday afternoon, the Coast Guard had predicted that oil would begin to hit the Louisiana coastline as early as tonight. At the time, the floating oil slick was just 3 miles from land and 25 miles from the nearest populated area.

The White House said 174,060 feet of flotation booms had been deployed to corral the floating oil. It said an additional 243,260 feet is available and 265,460 feet has been ordered. It said 76 tugs, barges, and skimmers were on scene to help in containment and cleanup, along with six fixed-wing aircraft, 11 helicopters, 10 remotely operated vehicles, and two mobile offshore drilling units.

BP’s chief operating officer, Doug Suttles, said the company has been reviewing research on using chemical dispersants to break up the oil — pumping them all the way down to the leaking wellhead to keep the crude from reaching the surface. This has been done before, but never at such depths. The wellhead is almost a mile underwater, 50 miles south of the mouth of the Mississippi River.

U.S. Coast Guard Rear Adm. Mary Landry called it “a novel, absolutely novel idea.”

At a Thursday afternoon event in the White House Rose Garden, President Obama said that the federal government is prepared to assist with cleanup efforts. “While BP is ultimately responsible for funding the cost of response and cleanup operations, my administration will continue to use every single available resource at our disposal, including potentially the Department of Defense to address the incident,” Obama said.

I have ordered the secretaries of the Interior and Homeland Security,