BP executives said for weeks that about 5,000 barrels of oil a day were gushing from the blown wellhead a mile below the Gulf of Mexico’s surface. Independent scientists estimated the spill at possibly more than 10 times that amount. The US Geological Survey reported Thursday that oil is leaking at two to four times the rate of BP's original figure. Under that scenario, the spill, which began drifting onto Louisiana beaches and wetlands last week, has surpassed the amount of oil dumped into Alaska's Prince William Sound by the Exxon Valdez in 1989 and threatens a huge swath of the Gulf Coast.
On Thursday, the president’s critics in Louisiana ranged from long-time Democratic strategist James Carville – a New Orleans resident who railed against what he called the administration’s lagging response – to oil industry veterans who lambasted Obama’s decision to extend a moratorium on drilling permits for six months and suspend planned exploration drilling on 33 wells currently operating in the Gulf.
In Washington, Rep. Charlie Melancon (D) of Louisiana excused himself from a House Energy subcommittee hearing Thursday after breaking down while explaining the crisis facing the region he represents. “Having flown over this disaster, I can tell you it greater than anyone can ever imagine,” said Representative Melancon, who represents six coastal parishes most threatened by the spill. “My constituents are watching a slow-motion tragedy unfold in front of them. Our culture is threatened, our coastal economy is threatened, and everything I know and love is at risk.”