Wednesday, May 19, 2010

"Atlantic coast now under threat as current spreads Gulf oil slick"

From the

There was mounting evidence last night that the scale of the oil spill disaster in the Gulf of Mexico has grown beyond all the initial worst-case scenarios, as thousands of gallons of oil continued to gush from the sea floor.

On the island of Key West, south of Florida, coastguard officials said about three tar balls an hour were washing up on the beaches of a state park. They said the globs of concentrated oil suggest leaking crude has now become caught up in the powerful loop current and could move from the gulf up to the Atlantic coast.

Meanwhile, an oceanographic research ship reported sighting a 10km (six-mile) plume lurking at depths below 1,000 metres and invisible from the surface.

The evidence of spreading environmental damage grew even more compelling with the release of fresh video showing thick clouds of oil billowing from the ruptured well.

The Obama administration responded by doubling the no-fishing zone to 19% of the waters in the gulf.

Fighting the spill is risky. Lisa Jackson, head of the Environmental Protection Agency, acknowledged that authorities were relying heavily on Corexit, a chemical banned in the UK because of its effects on limpets and other sea life.

"There has been a real reliance on them, maybe more than anybody thought would ever happen," she told the Senate environment and public works committee.

The mounting evidence forced administration officials to admit for the first time yesterday that they had underestimated the risks of offshore drilling.

In two highly charged hearings in the Senate, Ken Salazar, the interior secretary, conceded there had been failures in oversight by the agency responsible for policing offshore drilling. "We need to clean up that house," he said...

The White House this week intensified its efforts to limit the potential political damage on November's mid-term elections by backing an independent commission to investigate the disaster. In testimony yesterday defensive actions also included dogged resistance by administration officials to senators' demands to provide estimates of the size of the spill.

The stonewalling went beyond the Senate hearings. For the past 48 hours, officials have resisted reports by scientists that the spill could have entered the loop current, or downplayed their significance.

There are quite a few news stories claiming that the tar balls are not from this spill. But they don't say where they are from. If there haven't been tar balls and now there are - that is rather a stretch (wishful thinking?) to say they are not from "Deepwater Horizon".

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