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President Barack Obama has a mission to protect our coast and our economy

Editorial, The Times-Picayune, May 02, 2010

President Barack Obama will find a disaster of massive proportions when he arrives on the Louisiana coast today.

With at least 210,000 gallons of oil per day spewing into the Gulf of Mexico and strong winds pushing the black goo over makeshift barriers and onto shore, the Deepwater Horizon spill is fast becoming one of the worst in U.S. history.

Oil already is bespoiling parts of our coast and threatening the rich estuaries that produce oysters, shrimp and crabs and nourish brown pelicans and dozens of other species. The river of oil flowing into the Gulf has prompted the state to close waterways east of the Mississippi River to fishing and oyster harvesting. Hundreds of people who make their living from the water have suddenly found themselves unemployed, and the nation's seafood supply is being greatly diminished.

The president's presence at such a time of crisis is reassuring. The Obama administration in recent days has brought increased federal resources to bear on the spill, and that is greatly appreciated. Stopping the unchecked flow of oil from this well, cleaning up the damage and determining the accident's cause must remain a high national priority.

The president said Friday that he is looking for safeguards that can avert such an accident in the future. "I continue to believe that domestic oil production is an important part of our overall strategy for energy security," he said, but "it must done responsibly for the safety of our workers and our environment." That sort of balanced approach is crucial.

The well's owner, BP, ultimately is responsible for the effects of this spill. But the company seems woefully unprepared to deal with the oil that has been unleashed on the Gulf.

Coastal residents need President Obama to keep the pressure on BP and to use every resource at his disposal to fight this catastrophe.


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