Thursday: Gulf Oil Spill 5 Times Larger Than Thought; Senate to Debate Financial Reform
If new estimates are correct, the effort to contain a vast oil spill in the Gulf of Mexico just got a lot tougher. Coast Guard officials announced late Wednesday that five times more oil than initially thought is now pouring into the Gulf from a downed rig off the Louisiana coastline.
After discovering a third leak from a BP drilling rig that exploded last week, the Coast Guard now believes some 210,000 gallons of oil per day are spewing into the Gulf. That’s up from an initial estimate of about 42,000 gallons of oil per day.
BP has disputed the latest estimate but welcomed the prospect of aid from the Defense Department in stopping the leak.
The spill could hit the Louisiana coast as soon as Friday. Until then, officials are racing to contain as much of the spill as possible. Yesterday, crews attempted a controlled burn of some of the petroleum. The burn was deemed successful, but as Greg Pollock of the Oil Spill Prevention and Response Program at the Texas General Land Office told the NewsHour Wednesday, the method will only limit the damage.
Once the spill reaches the Louisiana coast, some 400 animal species will be in harm’s way. As the New Orlean’s Times Picayune points out:
“The area under threat produces the largest total seafood landings in the lower 48 states, is a vital wintering or resting spot for more than 70 percent of the nation’s waterfowl, is used by all 110 neo-tropical migratory songbirds, and produces 50 percent of the nation’s wild shrimp crop, 35 percent of its blue claw crabs and 40 percent of its oysters.”
Senate to Begin Debate on Finance Bill
After voting three times this week to block debate on financial reform, Senate Republicans yesterday agreed to begin consideration of the legislation. GOP leaders said they would now move to reshape the bill on the Senate floor through the amendment process.
Before ending their holdout, Republicans secured several key concessions, including the removal of a $50 billion fund financed by the banking industry to wind down failing financial institutions. Left unresolved was another key sticking point for the GOP: the creation of a consumer protection agency.
Debate on the bill begins this afternoon and is expected to last through the middle of May.
Candidates for Prime Minister Debate in Britain
Britain’s three main candidates for prime minister are preparing for their third and final debate Thursday ahead of national elections on May 6. Prime Minister Gordon Brown has said he will be looking to focus on the future of the nation’s economy, though he faces fresh controversy just one day after he was recorded calling a voter “just a sort of bigoted woman.”