Louisiana Governor orders flags lowered as Gulf spill worsens Special

Posted Apr 26, 2010 by Carol Forsloff
The Unified Command reports 42,000 gallons of oil spill have entered the Gulf and must be contained in 12 hours or spillage containment might take months and reach shoreline with devastating results.
Bobby Jindal  Governor of State of Louisiana.
Bobby Jindal, Governor of State of Louisiana.
Photo courtesy of the Office of the Governor
In a press conference this morning Louisiana Governor Bobby Jindal said, "We are lowering the flag today for the workers who were lost during the oil rig explosion. In the meantime I have been speaking with Admiral Landry and the leadership of British Petroleum on the situation in the Gulf. Containment booms are being used to control the spill."
Jindal underlined his sympathy for the families of the missing oil rig workers from the explosion on an oil rig Thursday. A Unified Command consisting of FEMA, the Department of Homeland Security and the Coast Guard have assumed leadership for emergency response.
State Representative Rick Nowlin expressed his concern also for the victims of the tragedy in the Gulf and his concerns about the potential negative impact on the environment if the oil spill reaches the shoreline. He said today, "This is a top priority environmental disaster."
When asked about the tendency for agencies to minimize the news he explained it this way, "There's a tendency for agencies to downplay things like this, but authorities must let people know what we're up against."
Nowlin is not on a committee directly involved with environmental issues but keeps abreast of the challenges to the state in a variety of areas. He went on to say about the oil spill, 'This could really evolve into a major crisis if it isn't contained. If millions of gallons spill into the Gulf, it will be a terrible thing. To prevent that requires immediate action and dedication to preventing what could be a very big disaster for the state."
The situation has been reported changing. Sunday the Unified Command declared more than 1000 gallons of oil had been spilling into the Gulf. This followed pronouncements on Friday there was no real evidence of significant leakage. Today officials report 42,000 gallons of oil are leaking and must be contained within 12 hours or the problem could take months to resolve.
State officials have expressed concerns about the impact on sensitive coastal areas. Containment booms have been erected to contain the spill.
The NOAA Office of Emergency Response team reports how the Unified Command, consisting of officials from the Coast Guard as well as other federal and state agencies, are attacking the problem to prevent the oil espill from reaching the coastline. They have two days to contain the spill before the risk increases, requiring months to contain. The plan for has the following elements:
* Try to activate the blow-out preventer (BOP), a cut-off valve at the well-head using ROVs – could stop leaks in several days, if successful
* Use an undersea dome to contain leaking oil, rigged by ROVs – has not been tried at this depth before
* Drill relief wells which could then be plugged - this process could take several months
* Aggressive skimming and dispersing of oil on the surface - ongoing
* Assessment and protection of coastal resources at risk - thousands of feet of oil containment and deflection boom are ready to deploy, experts are on-scene and enroute
“We have been in contact with all the coastal states,” Rear Adm. Mary E. Landry, the commander of the Eighth Coast Guard District, said at a news conference on Sunday. Emphasizing that the sheen was not estimated to hit shore anytime soon, Admiral Landry said contingency plans were being put in place.
“Everyone is forward-leaning and preparing for coastal impact,” she said.
Scientists present an outline of the serious harm that can come from oil spills reaching the shoreline. These include the impact on fishing and fisheries, the poisoning of sensitive marine and costal organic substrate, interruptions of the food chain for fish and sea creatures, devastation on wildife that life near the ocean. This in turn has human impact to food supplies. In addition coastal areas that attract people for recreation can be impacted influencing human activities with negative effects on the local economy. Property values, business activity and investment can all decrease.
Wildlife other than fish and sea creatures, including mammals, reptiles, amphibians, and birds that live in or near the ocean, are also poisoned by oil waste. The hazards for wildlife include toxic effects of exposure or ingestion, injuries such as smothering and deterioration of thermal decrease.
Jindal said, "I will continue to work with state and federal authorities on the oil spill" at his press conference today. Local representatives of the press posed no questions for the Governor on the incident concerning the oil rig explosion and the potential risks it might pose to the state and surrounding areas despite concerns expressed by national governmental authorities.