Oil Reaches Shore as Weather Threatens Cleanup

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Houston Chronicle (Texas)

Oil Reaches Shore as Weather Threatens Cleanup

by
Jennifer A. Dlouhy

Dr. Erica Miller, with Tri-State Bird Rescue and Research, works to give a dose of Pepto-Bismol to a Northern Gannet bird, normally white when full grown, which is covered in oil from a massive spill in the Gulf of Mexico, at a facility in Fort Jackson, La., Friday, April 30, 2010. (AP)

WASHINGTON — As oil
began washing onto Louisiana shores teeming with wildlife and weather
threatened cleanup efforts, President Barack Obama today insisted that
energy companies will have to employ new precautions in future offshore
drilling to prevent a repeat of the Deepwater Horizon rig disaster.

“I continue to
believe that domestic oil production is an important part of our
overall strategy for energy security,” Obama said in remarks at the
White House. “But I've always said it must be done responsibly, for the
safety of our workers and our environment.”

Obama said he had
ordered Interior Secretary Ken Salazar to conduct “a thorough review”
and report back within 30 days on what safety steps can be taken to
prevent accidents like the April 20 explosion at the Transocean-owned
and BP-leased rig about 50 miles off the coast of Louisiana.

Eleven rig workers
are missing and presumed dead, and crude is leaking into the Gulf from
three breaches in the pipe called a riser that once ran to the rig from
the well under almost a mile of water.

Salazar, along with
the heads of the Environmental Protection Agency and the Department of
Homeland Security were visiting the region today and planned aerial
tours and meetings with response teams.

Nearly 2,000
workers are trying to contain the widening spill in the Gulf, even as
up to 5,000 barrels, 210,000 gallons, of oil gush from three leaks in
an underwater pipe.

Despite the
containment efforts and what government officials said was the removal
of 20,313 barrels of crude-water mix, oil had reached Louisiana
wetlands by this morning.

The National
Weather Service predicted winds, high tides and waves through Sunday
that could push oil deep into the inlets, ponds and lakes that line the
boot of southeastern Louisiana. Seas of 6 to 7 feet were pushing tides
several feet above normal toward the coast, compounded by thunderstorms
expected in the area Friday.

The weather will
keep crews from skimming oil off of the surface or burning it off for
the next couple of days because of the weather, Coast Guard Rear Adm.
Sally Brice-O'Hara said on ABC's “Good Morning America.”

Waves may also wash
over booms strung out just off shorelines to stop the oil, said Tom
McKenzie, a spokesman for U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, which is
hoping booms will keep oil off the Chandeleur Islands, part of a
national wildlife refuge.

Top administration
officials declared that the spill would halt new drilling under Obama's
proposal last month to open up parts of the Atlantic and Arctic oceans,
as well as the eastern Gulf of Mexico, for new oil and gas leases.

“No additional
drilling has been authorized and none will until we find out what
happened here and whether there was something unique and preventable,”
White House Senior Adviser David Axelrod told “Good Morning America.”

Axelrod's comments
seemed designed to tamp down a burst of outrage from environmental
advocates and coastal residents, but might not have a major immediate
effect on the administration's development of a plan for drilling on
the outer continental shelf.

The Interior
Department is at the very beginning stages of a lengthy process of
implementing the president's proposal as part of a new plan governing
outer continental shelf leases from 2012 through 2017.

Even without
changes, no new leases under Obama's proposal would be sold until 2012
or later, and many industry leaders already expected most activity on
the Atlantic could be even further in the future.

The White House's
top energy adviser, Carol Browner, on Thursday noted that the
announcement of a new drilling plan “is the beginning of a process, not
the end of a process” and “there will be ample opportunity for public
input.”

But Browner left
open the possibility that the spill will affect the shape of the
2012-2017 plan, including where it might schedule leases.

“Obviously, what's
occurring now will also be taken into consideration as the
administration looks to how to advance that plan and what makes sense
and what might need to be adjusted,” Browner said.

Environmental
advocates seized on the disaster as evidence that the U.S. should
immediately clamp down on offshore drilling and urged the Obama
administration to go further.

“This disaster
changes everything,” said Michael Brune, the executive director of the
Sierra Club. “This tragedy should be a wake-up call. It's time to take
offshore drilling off the table for good.”

More than a dozen
federal agencies and departments — including the Pentagon and Justice
Department — have been tapped to assist with the recovery and monitor
the spill.

Attorney General
Eric Holder today said he was dispatching a team of attorneys to meet
with response teams in the Gulf and “vigorously enforce the laws that
protect the people who work and reside near the Gulf, the wildlife, the
environment and the American taxpayers.”

The Associated Press contributed to this report

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