Gulf of mexico oil spill declared "a spill of national significance,"

Thursday, April 29, 2010

Homeland Security Secretary Janet Napolitano today declared the Gulf of Mexico oil slick "a spill of national significance," meaning the government is designating more forces to contain its spread toward the U.S. coastline.

President Obama has ordered his staff to the area to "aggressively confront" the spill that is now much larger than expected, added press secretary Robert Gibbs.

At a special White House briefing, Napolitano said "every available asset" will be used to battle the spill. Oil could reach the Mississippi and Louisiana coasts by late Friday afternoon. Obama has telephoned the governors of those coastal states, as well as Texas, Alabama, and Florida.

British Petroleum (BP), the owner of the oil rig that exploded, is responsible for paying the costs of response and clean-up, Napolitano said.

Napolitano and other officials said their priorities are keeping residents of the Gulf Coast informed about the spread of oil, investigating the cause of the explosion, and making sure all oil drilling rigs in the gulf are following safety regulations.

The gulf spill could have a major political ramification: Obama's plan to expand offshore oil drilling as a way to increase the nation's domestic supply.

White House environmental adviser Carol Browner said the administration is only at "the beginning of a process" on new drilling rules, and the focus should be on the existing oil spill.

Gibbs noted that the incident is occurring in an area already open to offshore drilling. "Today, we don't know what caused this," he said.

In terms of the clean-up, "we are prepared for the worst case," said Sally Brice O'Hare, rear admiral for the U. S. Coast Guard. The goal, she said, is to "make sure this is not an Exxon Valdez type of case."

Napolitano briefed Obama this morning on the oil spill.

Obama has spoken with the five Gulf Coast governors who may be affected by the spill: Haley Barbour of Mississippi, Bobby Jindal of Louisiana, Bob Riley of Alabama, Rick Perry of Texas, and Charlie Crist of Florida.

(Posted by David Jackson)

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