Janet Napolitano

  • April 30, 2010

    The massive oil spill in the Gulf of Mexico, which has reportedly reached the coast, is threatening fisheries and fragile ecosystems, and spurring litigation.

    A group of Louisiana fisherman, shrimpers and commercial boaters filed suit against BP, the oil company renting the offshore drilling rig that continues to spill oil into the Gulf after a deadly explosion. According to an attorney involved in the suit, Daniel Becnel Jr., people from all five states lining the Gulf Coast have voiced interest in joining the expanding class action.

    Coast Guard officials estimate that the now-sunken rig is continuing to leak 5,000 barrels of oil daily -- five times the initial estimate. There is no indication that the well will be sealed any time soon.

    The spill provoked significant responses from federal and state officials. Louisiana Gov. Bobby Jindal declared a state of emergency. Homeland Security Secretary Janet Napolitano called the incident "a spill of national signifigance," and created two command posts in Alabama and Louisiana to monitor the federal response. Interior Secretary Ken Salazar launched an immediate review, including on-site inspections of 30 offshore drilling rigs and 47 production platforms operating in the Gulf. The U.S. Navy and Air Force are also included in managing the spill, lending scores of vessels and aircraft to an operation already involving over 1,000 people.