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Federal Officials Will Visit Louisiana Oil Spill Zone Friday

Federal officials will visit the oil spill zone in Louisiana Friday to help coordinate the response to the environmental crises, including top officials from the Homeland Security Department, Environmental Protection Agency, and the Interior Department. U.S. Homeland Security Secretary Janet Napolitano has declared that the oil spill is of “national significance,” meaning that the federal government will be able to devote more resources to the response and clean-up.

Oil has been gushing from an open well 5,000 feet below the surface of the Gulf of Mexico since the BP-owned Deepwater Horizon oil rig exploded April 20. On Thursday, Governor Bobby Jindal declared a state of emergency in Louisiana after the Coast Guard confirmed that 5 times as many gallons of oil are spilling from the underwater well as originally reported, or 210,000 gallons per day. It is also leaking from 3 spots in the pipes, rather than the originally reported two.

President Barack Obama has said that, although BP is ultimately responsible for the funding and cost of the clean-up and response, his administration will offer every available resource to help in the effort. Since the explosion, strong winds and rising tides have been pushing the oil toward the Louisiana coastline. Officials from BP and the state and federal government are attempting to prevent most of the oil from reaching the coastline and thereby stave off a full-fledged fishing industry and environmental land contamination disaster.

Commercial fishers have been helping to place oil booms off shore in an effort to contain the spreading oil slick. The spill threatens what has been one of the most productive fisheries in the U.S., supplying the nation with 50 percent of the wild shrimp crop.

The oil rig explosion, which left 11 oil workers missing and presumed dead and the subsequent oil spill, has caused the Obama Administration to re-think its recent support of expanded off-shore drilling. White House Press Secretary Robert Gibbs said that future off-shore drilling plans could change, depending on the results of a federal investigation into the cause of the Deepwater Horizon explosion. The Department of the Interior is sending teams to conduct safety investigations of all oil rigs and platforms in the Gulf. Three similar inspections of the Deepwater Horizon over the last year did not turn up any problems.

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