Coast Guard official defends federal response - - Jackson, MS

Coast Guard official defends federal response

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NEW ORLEANS, La. (AP) - A senior Coast Guard official is defending the federal response to a massive oil leak in the Gulf of Mexico as the first waves of oil hit Louisiana's ecologically rich wetlands.

Coast Guard Rear Adm. Sally Brice-O'Hara faced questions on all three network television morning shows Friday about whether the government has done enough to push oil company BP PLC to plug the underwater leak and protect the coast.

Brice-O'Hara said the federal response led by the Coast Guard has been rapid, sustained and has adapted as the threat grew since a drill rig exploded and sank last week, causing the seafloor spill.

The oil slick could become the nation's worst environmental disaster in decades, threatening hundreds of species of fish, birds and other wildlife along the Gulf Coast.

Government officials say the blown-out well 40 miles offshore is spewing about 5,000 barrels a day into the water.

At that rate, the spill could eclipse the worst oil spill in U.S. history, which was the 11 million gallons that leaked from the grounded tanker Exxon Valdez in 1989.

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