The spill is now bigger than first imagined – five times more than initially estimated – and could turn into one of the biggest in US history. An estimated 5000 barrels of oil a day are flowing from the well because of leaks caused by the sinking of the Deepwater Horizon drilling platform last week, and officials said it could take up to 90 days to cap it, making for volumes that could exceed the 1989 Exxon Valdez disaster in Alaska and a 1969 accident in Santa Barbara, California.
Department of Homeland Security Secretary Janet Napolitano will announce Friday that the oil spill in the Gulf of Mexico is beyond the capabilities of BP PLC and Transocean Ltd. to handle, meaning a larger government role to stop the leak.
The government has classified the situation as an “incident of national significance,” officially defined as an event that requires a coordinated response to minimize damage, save lives and plan for long-term economic recovery. The government’s National Response Team — composed of 16 federal agencies and departments — coordinates the federal response.
Top federal officials from Interior, Department of Homeland Security, and the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency will visit the oil spill zone along the Louisiana coast today as efforts mount to contain the damage onshore.
The government and BP Oil have deployed 1,178 people to the region to protect the Gulf Coast shoreline and wildlife, according to the White House. Officials have established five staging areas — in Biloxi, Miss., Pensacola, Fla., Venice, La., Pascagoula, Miss., and Theodore, Ala. — to protect sensitive shorelines.
Meanwhile, BP Plc will compensate all those affected by an oil spill from one of its wells in the Gulf of Mexico, its chief executive said, accepting the disaster could hit plans to open new areas off the U.S. coast to drilling.They said it is “ramping up preparations for a major protection and cleaning effort on the shorelines.
Costs could be more than $3 billion, depending on how long it takes to arrest the flow of oil into the Gulf, Jeffrey Woodruff, senior director in Fitch’s energy team in London, said in the statement.
Insurance will likely cover the majority of BP’s costs, limiting rating pressure, Fitch said. It now rates BP AA-plus, just one notch below its top rating of AAA.
“We are doing absolutely everything in our power to eliminate the source of the leak and contain the environmental impact of the spill. We are determined to fight this spill on all fronts, in the deep waters of the Gulf, in the shallow waters and, should it be necessary, on the shore,” said BP Group Chief Executive Tony Hayward. “In the past few days I have seen the full extent of BP’s global resources and capability being brought to bear on this problem and welcome the offers of further assistance we have had from government agencies, oil companies, and members of the public to defend the shoreline and fight this spill. We are determined to succeed.”
Now the ensuing spill threatens 445 species of fish, 45 species of mammals, 32 species of amphibians and reptiles, and 134 species of birds, the Louisiana Department of Wildlife and Fisheries said. And when the massive oil slick makes landfall in Louisiana on today, it will hit 10 wildlife refuges or management areas, such as the Gulf Islands National Seashore.