Friday: Traces of Oil Reach Coast; Economy Grows 3.2 Percent

BY jbreslow  April 30, 2010 at 9:59 AM EST


Communities along Louisiana’s coast are bracing as oil from a vast spill in the Gulf of Mexico was expected to reach land Friday. An estimated 210,000 gallons of oil per day are believed to be leaking. (Photo by Chris Graythen/Getty Images)

As the first traces of oil were reported to have reached the Louisiana coast on Friday from a massive spill in the Gulf of Mexico, a top White House advisor said no new drilling would be authorized until the cause of the accident is determined.

It has been less than a month since President Obama proposed lifting a moratorium on offshore drilling in the Gulf of Mexico, as well as in stretches of the Atlantic and Arctic oceans. Yet with some 210,000 gallons of oil now believed to be spewing into the Gulf each day, a rethink of the policy is underway. Speaking on ABC’s Good Morning America, White House Senior Advisor David Axelrod said, “No additional drilling has been authorized and none will until we find out what happened here and whether there was something unique and preventable here.”

Meantime, communities along the Gulf Coast are bracing for a potential environmental crisis. Some 400 animal species could be affected by the spill, according to the Louisiana Department of Wildlife and Fisheries, as well as the state’s $1.8 billion fishing industry.

A protective boom has been set up around the Breton Island wildlife refuge, and the U.S. Navy has been called in to help contain the spill.

Nevertheless, there remains “a considerable amount of both fear and anxiety” the NewsHour’s Tom Bearden reported from Louisiana Thursday. “Fishermen and women we talked to,” he said, ” … were very concerned that, when this oil slick comes ashore, that there’s not adequate protection for all the various estuaries around here.”

Even with additional federal assistance it could be as many as 90 days before a relief valve is in place to shut down the leak, BP spokeswoman Ayana McIntosh-Lee told the NewsHour’s Jeffrey Brown Thursday. At the rate oil is currently escaping into the Gulf, officials fear the leak could eclipse the 1989 Exxon Valdez disaster, the worst oil spill in U.S. history.

We’ll have lots more on the spill here throughout the day and on tonight’s show. Stay tuned.

U.S. Economy Expands By 3.2 Percent

Some positive news on the economic front came Friday, as the Commerce Department reported the U.S. economy expanded at a rate of 3.2 percent in the first three months of 2010. The growth in gross domestic product was helped by the lowest level of core inflation in 50 years, as well as a 3.6 percent pickup in consumer spending.

Possible Criminal Charges for Goldman Sachs

Two weeks after the Securities and Exchange Commission filed civil charges against Goldman Sachs, the investment giant is now under investigation by the Justice Department for possible criminal violations, according to multiple reports out Friday. As The Washington Post notes:
“Although the SEC frequently sends its cases to the Justice Department for possible criminal prosecution, the stakes are higher because the Goldman case involves one of Wall Street’s most storied firms, a business that had survived the financial crisis with its profitability intact but now faces accusations that it misled clients.”

Anthem Blue Cross Drops proposed Rate Hike

The insurance giant Anthem Blue Cross has dropped plans to raise rates as much as 39 percent for residents in California. The proposal drew sharp criticism from President Obama in the final days of the health care reform debate, and the public outcry to the plan has largely been credited with helping propel Democrats’ final drive for the legislation.