Environmental Law

'River of Oil' from Gulf Spill Hits La. Shore, Could Dwarf Exxon Valdez Damage

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Updated: The blowout of an oil well being dug by a British Petroleum rig in the Gulf of Mexico has resulted in a massive spill that could dwarf the environmental damage done in 1989 when the Exxon Valdez ran aground in Alaska.

The “river of oil” that began washing onto the Louisiana shoreline yesterday could be running for two months before it is stopped, reports the New Orleans Times-Picayune.

“This isn’t a spill,” says Kerry St. Pe, the longtime chief of Louisiana’s oil spill response team. “This isn’t a storage tank or a ship with a finite amount of oil that has boundaries. This is much, much worse.”

The U.S. military is working with BP to try to contain the spill that resulted when the Deepwater Horizons rig exploded and sank 50 miles off the Louisiana coastline, leaving 11 workers missing and presumed dead. However, over 200,000 gallons a day are now thought to be leaking, far more than an earlier estimate of a little over 40,000 gallons a day, reports the Associated Press.

The Louisiana governor has declared a state of emergency so federal resources can be deployed. But officials are bracing for massive environmental damage that could destroy much of the Gulf Coast, reports the New York Daily News.

“It may be two or three months before they can stop the discharge. The magnitude of this thing gives me concerns,” says Michael Sole. He is the chief of Florida’s Environmental Protection Department.

Additional coverage:

Business Insurance: “Owner to retain sizable losses in oil rig explosion”

McClatchy Newspapers: “Pentagon on alert as Gulf Coast readies for oil’s onslaught”

Dot Earth (New York Times, opinion): “Florida Democrat Seeks Offshore Oil Hiatus”

Pensacola News Journal: “Oil spill puts Gulf drilling in spotlight”

Updated on April 30 to include information from subsequent Times-Picayune coverage and clarify estimated amount of leaking oil.

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