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May 21, 2010 12:20 PM by Melissa Canone

Oil Creeps Deeper Into Delicate Marshes

GRAND ISLE, La. (AP) - Thick, sticky oil crept deeper into
delicate marshes of the Mississippi Delta, an arrival dreaded for a
month since the crude started spewing into the Gulf, as anger and
frustration mounted over efforts to plug the gusher from a
blown-out well and contain the spill.
Up to now, only tar balls and a sheen of oil had come ashore.
But chocolate brown and vivid orange globs and sheets of
foul-smelling oil the consistency of latex paint have begun coating
the reeds and grasses of Louisiana's wetlands, home to rare birds,
mammals and a rich variety of marine life.
A deep, stagnant ooze sat in the middle of a particularly
devastated marsh off the Louisiana coast where Emily Guidry
Schatzel of the National Wildlife Federation was examining stained
reeds.
"This is just heartbreaking," she said with a sigh. "I can't
believe it."
Ralph Morgenweck of the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service said
Friday that countless animals could be feeling the effects of the
spill, though workers have found only a handful hurt or injured.
BP PLC was leasing the Deepwater Horizon rig when it exploded
April 20, killing 11 workers and triggering the massive spill. The
company conceded Thursday what some scientists have been saying for
weeks: More oil is flowing from the leak than BP and the Coast
Guard had previously estimated.
"It's anger at the people who are supposed to be driving the
ship don't have any idea what's going on," said E.J. Boles, 55, a
musician from Big Pine Key, Fla. "Why wouldn't they have any
contingency plan? I'm not a genius and even I would have thought of
that."
The BP executive in charge of fighting the spill, Chief
Operating Officer Doug Suttles, said he understands the public
frustration. He told the CBS "Early Show" on Friday that in the
worst case scenario, the gusher could continue until early August,
when a new well being drilled to cap the flow permanently could be
finished.
But Suttles said he believes the rich Gulf environment will
recover, in part because it is a large body of water and has
withstood other oil spills.
"I'm optimistic, I'm very optimistic that the Gulf will fully
recover," Suttles said on CBS.
A live video feed of the underwater gusher, posted online after
lawmakers exerted pressure on BP, is sure to fuel the anger.
It shows what appears to be a large plume of oil and gas still
spewing into the water next to the stopper-and-tube combination
that BP inserted to carry some of the crude to the surface. The
House committee website where the video was posted promptly crashed
because so many people were trying to view it.
"BP has lost all credibility ... It's clear that they have been
hiding the actual consequences of this spill," said U.S. Rep.
Edward J. Markey, D-Mass.
At least 6 million gallons have gushed into the Gulf since the
explosion, more than half of what the Exxon Valdez tanker spilled
in Alaska in 1989. A growing number of scientists believe it's
more.
BP spokesman Mark Proegler told The Associated Press that the
mile-long tube inserted into a leaking pipe over the weekend is
capturing 210,000 gallons of oil a day - the total amount the
company and the Coast Guard have estimated is gushing into the sea
- but some is still escaping. He would not say how much.
Washington, meanwhile, has turned up the pressure on BP.
The Obama administration asked the company to be more open with
the public by sharing such information as measurements of the leak
and the trajectory of the spill. BP has been accused of covering up
the magnitude of the disaster.
Also, the Environmental Protection Agency directed BP to employ
a less toxic form of the chemical dispersants it has been using to
break up the oil and keep it from reaching the surface.
BP is marshaling equipment for an attempt as early as Sunday at
a "top kill," which involves pumping heavy mud into the top of
the blown-out well to try to plug the gusher.
If it doesn't work, the backup plans include a "junk shot" -
shooting golf balls, shredded tires, knotted rope and other
material into the well to clog it up.
"We're now looking at a scenario where response plans include
lighting the ocean on fire, pouring potent chemicals into the
water, and using trash and human hair to stop the flow of oil,"
said Michael Brune, executive director of the Sierra Club, in a
letter to President Barack Obama calling for a formal moratorium on
new offshore drilling permits. "If this is the backup plan, we
need to rethink taking the risk in the first place."
Patience was wearing thin among state and local officials who
called on Obama to take a larger role in the fight against oil
invading the Louisiana coast.
"We've given BP enough time," said Jefferson Parish Councilman
John Young.
"Everything in that marsh is dead as we speak," Plaquemines
Parish President Billy Nungesser said after touring the clogged
marshes. "Had you fallen off that boat yesterday and come up
breathing that stuff, you probably wouldn't be here, either."

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