Washington: President Barack Obama awaited a firsthand update Sunday on the Gulf Coast oil spill and efforts to contain the environmental damage, and two members of his Cabinet hit the talk show circuit as the administration tried to counter criticism it had reacted slowly to the disaster.
Obama planned to fly to Louisiana for briefings on the underwater spill, which remained unstopped and impossible to measure, raising fears it could be pouring more oil into the Gulf than earlier believed.
The Coast Guard estimated that at least 1.6 million gallons of oil have spilled since the April 20 explosion that killed 11 workers on an offshore rig. In the Exxon Valdez disaster, an oil tanker spilled 11 million gallons off Alaska`s shores in 1989.
Obama has said his administration will do all that it can to battle the spill, which came from a BP oil company exploratory rig. The spill is already the worst in U.S. waters in decades.
Obama has relied on reports from agency chiefs and Coast Guard officials since the magnitude of the spill became clear late Wednesday. Aides report he`s been getting regular updates.
Interior Secretary Ken Salazar and Homeland Security Secretary Janet Napolitano scheduled appearances across the Sunday morning talk shows to detail the administration`s efforts in dealing with the environmental disaster. Joining them was the commandant of the Coast Guard, Adm. Thad Allen.
Obama has said no new offshore oil drilling leases will be issued unless rigs have new safeguards to prevent a repeat of the explosion that unleashed the massive spill.
The spill came just weeks after Obama announced plans to open up large areas of the Eastern Seaboard and a part of the Gulf for possible future oil drilling. And it`s led to increasing calls to reconsider that initiative by environmentalists and coastal state lawmakers.