April 30th, 2010
09:14 PM ET

Gulf Coast residents brace for potential calamity

Officials anticipate that oil floating toward Louisiana is likely to reach land sometime Friday.

(Update 9:13 p.m.) EPA administrator Lisa Jackson said Friday there is a chance that workers will be able to stop the flow of oil into the Gulf of Mexico, but warned that the EPA is preparing for the worst.

"There is still the opportunity and the possibility that they would be able to shut it down," Jackson told CNN Chief National Correspondent John King. "Of course as responders we have to look at the worst case, and keep planning for that."

Jackson's comments come as the federal government is ramping up the pressure on BP to do more to stop well leaks gushing thousands of barrels of oil into waters off Louisiana. The government is also pushing BP to beef up its response as a giant oil slick approaches the Louisiana coast.

In the interview on CNN's John King USA that aired Friday, Jackson responded to questions about the level of trust the Obama administration had in BP immediately following the April 20 oil rig explosion that also resulted in 11 presumed deaths.

"I don't think it was ever a question of trust in the company, I think it was a question of responding to the set of facts as we came to understand them," Jackson said. "The situation has certainly worsened. It began as a human tragedy, it is now what I think is an environmental challenge of the highest order."

(Update 7:42 p.m.) Sen. David Vitter announced the closure of several oyster beds in eastern Louisiana, but kept the western parts open, CNN affiliate WDSU reports.

The director for Rouses Supermarket, which has stores across the Gulf Coast, including southern Louisiana and Mississippi, said all seafood on the shelves is safe, according to WDSU.

"Everything that is coming into the markets and restaurants is coming from the west part of the Mississippi River," Seafood Director James Bruel told WDSU.

"Everything we get is traceable. Anything that comes through our back doors has an invoice of where it came from. Everything right now is 100 percent safe to eat," he said.

(Update 6:48 p.m.) U.S. Secretary of Defense Robert Gates has approved Louisiana Gov. Bobby Jindal's request to mobilize 6,000 National Guard troops in response to the massive oil spill expanding in the Gulf of Mexico, according to a Defense Department spokesman.

(Update 5:25 p.m.) The federal government is heightening the pressure on BP, pushing the oil company to do more to stop well leaks gushing thousands of barrels of oil into the Gulf of Mexico and to beef up its response to the potential environmental impact on the coast.

"We'll continue to urge BP to leverage additional assets," U.S. Secretary of Homeland Security Janet Napolitano told reporters Friday as the massive oil slick approached the Louisiana coast. "It is time for BP to supplement their current mobilization as the slick of oil moves toward shore."

BP, which owns the ruptured well, said officials expect oil to reach land sometime Friday, with Venice and Port Fourchon the first places likely to be affected.

Doug Suttles, chief operating officer of BP, said the company has had only three priorities since the April 20 rig explosion that led to the oil spill: stop the flow of oil, minimize its impact and keep the public informed.

"We've so far mounted the largest response effort ever done in the world," Suttles said at the same news conference. "We've utilized every technology available, we've applied every resource request. ... We welcome every new idea and every offer of support."

(Update 3:47 p.m.) U.S. Interior Secretary Ken Salazar has ordered inspections of all deep-water operations in Gulf of Mexico.

The Department of Interior will also establish a new Outer Continental Shelf Safety Board to conduct a review of offshore drilling practices and safety issues and tighten the oversight of equipment testing, he said.

(Update 3:41 p.m.)  The American Bird Conservancy, the nation's leading bird conservation organization, released a list of key bird sites they say are most immediately threatened by the ongoing Deepwater Horizon oil spill in the Gulf.

They are: the Gulf Coast Least Tern Colony; the Lower Pascagoula River – including the Pascagoula River Coastal Preserve; the Gulf Islands National Seashore; Breton National Wildlife Refuge – including the Chandeleur Islands; Dauphin Island; Fort Morgan Historical Park; Bon Secour National Wildlife Refuge; Eglin Air Force Base; Delta National Wildlife Refuge; and Baptiste Collette Bird Islands.

(Update 2:20 p.m.) A roundup of some of the latest developments:

- More than 217,000 feet of boom, or barrier, is assigned to contain the spill. An additional 305,760 feet is available.

- 139,459 gallons of dispersant have been deployed and an additional 51,000 gallons are available.

- Gov. Bob Riley of Alabama met with members of his Cabinet to give them the latest information on the oil slick in the gulf and to tell them to reach out to citizens and businesses that could be affected.

- Biloxi Mayor A.J. Holloway discussed oil-spill preparations with key  department heads and will ask the City Council to declare a state of emergency.

- Two Air Force Reserve C-130s from 910th Airlift Wing out of Youngstown  Ohio have arrived at Stennis Airfield in Hancock County Mississippi to help.  

- BP has set up a "Vessel of Opportunity" program for vessel owners to  offer their services to assist with response efforts.

- To supplement its Houma, Louisiana incident command post, BP is now establishing a similar onshore incident command post in Mobile, Alabama to  oversee the onshore response in Mississippi, Alabama and Florida.

(Update 2:12 p.m.) A number of organizations are recruiting volunteers to help with the effects of the oil spill. Here’s how you can help.

(Update 1:31 p.m.)  Attorney General Eric Holder is sending a team of Justice Department attorneys to the Gulf Coast to meet with federal prosecutors and response teams, the Justice Department said in a statement released Friday.

"The Justice Department stands ready to make available every resource at our disposal to vigorously enforce the laws that protect the people who work and reside near the Gulf, the wildlife, the environment and the American taxpayers," the statement said.

(Update 1:10 p.m.) The oil spill could threaten hundreds of species of wildlife, some in their prime breeding season, environmental organizations said.

"The terrible loss of 11 workers (unaccounted for after the rig explosion) may be just the beginning of this tragedy as the oil slick spreads toward sensitive coastal areas vital to birds and marine life and to all the communities that depend on them," said Melanie Driscoll, director of bird conservation for the Louisiana Coastal Initiative, in a statement.

(Update 12:57 p.m.) Track the oil spill with this map and tell us how it is affecting you.

(Update 11:58 a.m.) President Barack Obama is ordering Interior Secretary Ken Salazar "to conduct a thorough review" of the explosion of the Deepwater Horizon rig and subsequent oil spill.

He said domestic oil production continues to be "an important part of our overall strategy" but said "it must be done responsibly for the safety of our workers and our environment." 

(Update 11:54 a.m) Florida Gov. Charlie Crist has declared a state of emergency in the Panhandle coastal counties of Escambia, Santa Rosa, Okaloosa, Walton, Bay, and Gulf.

Officials anticipate that oil floating toward Louisiana is likely to reach land sometime Friday, with Venice and Port Fourchon, being the first places affected, said BP spokesman Mike Abendhoff.

Officials monitoring the Gulf oil spill have not yet confirmed reports that oil reached land in the morning hours. Full story

A roundup of other developments:

- Louisiana's Gov. Bobby Jindal has declared a state of emergency and asked the Defense Department to approve funding for the deployment of 6,000 National Guard troops.

- Along the Gulf coast business owners are concerned about the potential impact on the bottom line. The oil slick coming ashore "would put us out of business," fisherman Rene Cross in Venice, Louisiana, told CNN affiliate WDSU. 

- Dave Rauschkolb who owns three restaurants on the Florida Panhandle says: "We are a seasonal economy.  If I don't have my summer business, I am out of business." Full story

Here are highlights from the latest briefing Friday by the Joint Information Center, which is coordinating response to the oil spill.

- Nearly 2,000 personnel are involved in the response

- More than 217,000 feet of boom assigned to contain the spill.  An additional 305,760 feet is available.

- To date, the oil spill response team has recovered 20,313 barrels (853,146 gallons) of an oil-water mix. 

- 75 response vessels are being used including skimmers, tugs, barges and recovery vessels.

- Five staging areas are in place and ready to protect sensitive shorelines: Mississippi; Pensacola, Florida; Venice, Louisiana; Pascagoula, Mississippi; and Theodore, Alabama. A sixth staging area is being set up in Port Sulphur, Louisiana.

- Winds on Friday are from the southeast at 20 knots Seas are 5- to 7- feet, with slight chance of afternoon showers.

soundoff (463 Responses)
  1. FederalistPaperRedux

    Whats the difference between a disaster caused by the banking industry and a disaster
    caused by an oil spill? Why is Jindal asking for Fed help...what happened to fiscal responsibility? With the banking failure were not the jobs in his state threatened? Did the
    folks of his state not deserve protection of their livelihood. Where is his austere conservative
    courage now? Hmmm....maybe he has come to realize the Fed is necessary and
    perhaps business has a way of making a mess when left on their own. Banks, Coal Mines
    now – Oil Rigs....Maybe he needs a tea party rally.

    April 30, 2010 at 3:49 pm | Report abuse |
  2. alex

    Definitely time to rethink the whole "drill baby drill" mantra.

    April 30, 2010 at 3:51 pm | Report abuse |
  3. strangways

    now imagine dozens of rigs up and down the east coast – as recently announced. time to rethink and start spending SERIOUS money on alternate energy technologies...

    April 30, 2010 at 3:51 pm | Report abuse |
  4. Karen

    Solar looks pretty good right about now!

    April 30, 2010 at 3:51 pm | Report abuse |
  5. nik

    Since it is definitely Al Qaeda, let us bomb Venezuela.

    April 30, 2010 at 3:52 pm | Report abuse |
  6. thequestioner

    I do not understand why noone had the foresight to try to head this spill off from the beginning! Although I fully understand utilizing maximum resources to try to save the lives of the 11 missing employees from the rig, one of my first thoughts on the day of the explosion was "what will be done to prevent a huge spill?" Now a week later they are trying to do a bunch of last-minute half-baked efforts to stop the spill when they could have done so much more early on. This is mismanagement by BP, but also total mismanagement by our government in not cutting this off early on. Additionally, this is ONE WELL!! How long is it going to take terrorists to realize the impact of this one incident and make plans accordingly? Think they haven't? Think again...

    April 30, 2010 at 3:52 pm | Report abuse |
  7. Stephen Wilkerson

    Sir,

    Do we know for sure that there is a cut off valve that failed? Do we know for sure if BP actually put a blow out valve at the sea bed? Who is the manufactor of that valve and what is their responsibility in this? Thank you,

    Drew

    April 30, 2010 at 3:52 pm | Report abuse |
  8. terry faust

    How well are the other oil rigs protected, once terrorists find out how much damage this can do to us won't they make rigs targets??

    April 30, 2010 at 3:52 pm | Report abuse |
  9. Karen

    I think it's awesome that there are so many organizations recruiting volunteers to help with the oil spill. On the other hand, I think BP and/or Transocean should pay all those people for their help (depending on which company is truly responsible). I'm also wondering – Where are all the BP and Transocean spokespeople? They seem to have downplayed this incident from the start. It makes me cringe that, in this day and age, something like this could happen.

    April 30, 2010 at 3:55 pm | Report abuse |
  10. Ron

    Scary part is the crude is still pouring out and NO ONE knows how long it will take to stop it.

    April 30, 2010 at 3:56 pm | Report abuse |
  11. Sher, N. Ca.

    Americans have been in denial since they were warned in 1979 by Jimmy Carter to get off OIL. Yes, he was into peanuts. He knew what he was talking about and no one listened. Better listen up Louisiana and do not let BP off the hook, like they did the Exxon Valdez. Our pristine Prince William Sound was destroyed and will never be what it was.Many wildlife decimated. GONE. Get it in writing and publicized that, YES, BP is Responsible for all expenses. Americans you are responsible for driving less or buying Green. How sad.

    April 30, 2010 at 3:56 pm | Report abuse |
  12. RB

    Jack49 is obviously a "genious",. He knows who the "imbisals" are!

    April 30, 2010 at 3:57 pm | Report abuse |
  13. bob martin

    clean baby clean

    April 30, 2010 at 3:59 pm | Report abuse |
  14. SB

    Seriously, you guys are idiots. Most of these posts make no sense at all. I don't know why cnn thinks this adds to "news." Oh yeah, because NO freakin' news source reports just the facts any more. Anyway, why does everyone make this so black and white? IT'S NOT! I don't know what happened and won't pretend to. Big companies do make mistakes, but they also do get a way with more than they should. I don't even want to touch on that so much as I do the whole environmental aspect. First, those that care about the environment don't have to give up all energy! They should be reducing its use though. Yes, 90% of the people in the US shouldn't be driving a SUV period, but that doesn't mean they should go without heat and give up all energy! Plus, oil isn't the only source out there. I too want to be off of foreign oil, but we do have other forms such as hydrostatic, wind, solar, and nuclear. Last comment (and the one with REAL environmental facts from engineers and scientists in the field...and not just wannabe environmentalists and especially not journalists), the sad fact is, we CAN NOT survive on all the alternative fuels alone. It is true, we do need Oil, but we DON"T need to do it haphazardly and should be looking to reduce the use. So, please, quite polarizing things. It may make great headlines, but its NOT REAL!! We need to cut back, we need to drill, we need to drill safely, we need to use alternative fuels, and we need to care about the environment. They are ALL a part of the equation.

    April 30, 2010 at 4:00 pm | Report abuse |
  15. Carol

    These people have gone through so much! I think it would be nice if everyone could plan a vacation there to help them get through all this! It may sound silly, but the businesses in that area will need help!

    April 30, 2010 at 4:00 pm | Report abuse |
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