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. Paul S

    Obama is sending his drones to "get answers and get to the bottom of this so it doesn't happen again".While Nero fiddles and Rome burns a gazillion gallons of oil continues to spill out.Make no mistake about this if it isn't capped and real soon this will make the Valdez look like a kindergarten exercise.

    April 30, 2010 at 9:06 pm | Report abuse |
  2. Ryan

    Just got out of the water in Orange Beach, AL, been surfing all day, and it is sad at the attempts to boom the coast. What idiot is in charge of putting these things out.

    April 30, 2010 at 9:10 pm | Report abuse |
  3. JBL

    John, rules are different than government regulating. Regulating is literally a communist term used as a soft way of implementing government control over a business. Our laws against crimes are rules that do stop criminal activity if one lets them. The problem comes when, like communism, a government tries to make the people serve it. The original intent of our government was to serve the people. Thats what laws/rules are. They serve the purpose of restraining evil. Regulating serves the purpose of restraining good free market economy principles because some people do something that is contrary to someones personal beliefs such as the President's. It only ends in damaging the economy as a whole if you study it out.

    April 30, 2010 at 9:17 pm | Report abuse |
  4. Mathew

    Dril baby drill

    April 30, 2010 at 9:17 pm | Report abuse |
  5. Dave

    How does the 20,313 barrels of oil/water mix that has been recovered get handled?

    April 30, 2010 at 9:18 pm | Report abuse |
  6. Dead on

    Please tell someone at BP to take a high pressure balloon (made to stop waterlines), put it in the pipe and inflate it!! Temporary fix until a more permanent solution is implemented. Stop the flow!

    April 30, 2010 at 9:27 pm | Report abuse |
  7. ma belle

    People, do you have ANY idea what you are talking about? You write comments that suggest that the rig and BP were totally unprepared for any leak. How ignorant. Every company and location that handles "oil" on or NEAR coastal waters is REQUIRED by the US GOVERNMENT to submit plans for oil spill response. (See how well governement regulations work at preventing and fixing problems???)There always the misicule chance that the worst possible set of circumstances will develop and no planned response will be sufficient. You need to accept that bad things happen. Things NOBODY wants. Then you need to be civil in your efforts to work together to respond appropriately and take REASONABLE steps to prevent a similar incident. And some of the suggestions for stopping the leak? Apparently not too many engineers make comments here.

    April 30, 2010 at 9:27 pm | Report abuse |
  8. JBL

    Dave, I was wondering the same thing. I would think that since oil, though dirty, would be able to be separated from the water since it is simply a separated suspension of the more-dense oil in the midst of the less dense water. The oil would sink to the bottom. Although, I wonder about the salt content.

    April 30, 2010 at 9:27 pm | Report abuse |
  9. Stosh 59

    What if the people finally said enough is enough? What if we had another viable third party and stuck it to both the dems and the repubs and voted out all the incumbents with over 10 yrs in Washington? What if we really stuck it to big oil and really went for alternative fuels and encouraged the creation of new jobs here by doing so? What if Congress didn't have the power to vote themselves another raise this year or next? What if we stopped giving them the best health care our tax dollars can buy and they had to pay for some things themselves? What if all the illegals turned around and went home , would we really want to do the jobs they have been doing here? What if they became terrorists and brought Islamic extremists with them as freely as they have come over? We can't or won't stop that from happening the corporations won't allow that. What if we have screwed ourselves to the point where we can't save our own country because we are already lost and just don't know it? I did have some hope but Obama can't do anything but follow corporate directives just like every other pres. no matter which party they are from. I wish we could have small farms again but I think that would be almost illegal now. What if we had road taxes on tires instead of fuel? Isn't that where the rubber meets the road no matter what the fuel is? I could od this for hours but will stop for now.

    April 30, 2010 at 9:42 pm | Report abuse |
  10. Katie

    Quit your bickering back and forth. You are what is wrong with this country. Not one party or the other.
    Roll up your sleeves and the next few weeks and month see what you can do besides complain.

    God Bless the Coast.

    April 30, 2010 at 9:50 pm | Report abuse |
  11. John

    JBL, you're wrong if you think that "our laws against crimes are rules that do stop criminal activity". Because it's simply not good enough. Criminals don't limit their activities to the extent that laws cover them. There is such a thing as ethical responsibility and because criminals don't care about ethics, we need regulation. Crime prevention in other words. I guess where we differ is in the definition of "criminal". For me it is criminal to destroy our life-giving environment, even if you have been given permission from corrupt politicians to do so. For me it is criminal if stock brokers "short" stock to bet on companies failing and by doing that to take money out of the system and into their pockets. For me it is criminal when companies fail, get bailed out by huge cash infusion from tax payers, yet their employees get huge bonuses. You can find these types of corruption everywhere but they don't fall under criminal law because these are ethical issues. You on the other hand pretend that as long as laws are not broken, everything's just peachy. Open your eyes man. Regulation, as long as it doesn't stifle businesses that do ethical business, is needed. Regulation, if done properly, is not "citizens serving the goverment". Regulation is "stop powerful citizens from screwing with weaker citizens" while looking out for our planet and the common good.

    April 30, 2010 at 9:54 pm | Report abuse |
  12. JBL

    Too many 'what ifs' for me. Too pessimistic too. All it takes is a look at the past when things worked, and when everything started going downhill. We know socialism does not work. Our strongest times of economic growth were when there was the least government control and the strongest unity between citizens.

    April 30, 2010 at 9:54 pm | Report abuse |
  13. Dave

    Stosh, that is a lot of "what ifs". These are all good questions but, unless people like yourself turn that enegy borne of frustration into action, nothing will ever change. Hopefully, you and other people that question the direction in which this country is headed will do more than just sound off about it and become actively involved in the political process.

    April 30, 2010 at 9:58 pm | Report abuse |
  14. willis

    Where are all of the looters? You would think they would be down there sucking up the oil to resell it.....

    April 30, 2010 at 10:00 pm | Report abuse |
  15. willis

    Keep destroying the environment....we will be sorry sooner or later

    April 30, 2010 at 10:03 pm | Report abuse |
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