President Barack Obama will visit the Gulf Coast on Sunday for a firsthand update on the environmental disaster threatened by a huge, growing oil slick forecasters said was being driven ashore by winds.
Obama was anxious to be seen paying close attention to the cleanup and containment of one of the worst oil spills in U.S. history.
No further details were disclosed about the timing or the exact location of the visit, the official said aboard Air Force One as the president landed in Detroit for a speech.
The underwater spill remained unstopped and impossible to measure, raising fears it could be pouring more oil into the Gulf than estimated. The Coast Guard estimates that at least 1.6 million gallons of oil have spilled since the April 20 explosion that killed 11 workers on an offshore rig. In the Exxon Valdez disaster, an oil tanker spilled 11 million gallons off Alaska’s shores in 1989.Threatening fish and shrimp breeding grounds and vulnerable wetlands teeming with wildlife,the leak, followed a rig explosion and sinking last week, has forced Obama to suspend politically sensitive plans to expand offshore oil drilling, unveiled last month partly to woo Republican support for climate legislation.
In his remarks Friday, Obama said he continues “to believe that domestic oil production is an important part of our overall strategy for energy security. But I’ve always said that it must be done responsibly for the safety of our workers and our environment.”