Potentially “catastrophic” for Louisiana’s Gulf Coast. That’s the sentiment being expressed across the country about last week’s oil rig explosion in the Gulf of Mexico that is now far worse than almost anyone initially thought. The White House said today that President Barack Obama has directed his administration — including the Pentagon — to aggressively join the cleanup in an effort to stave off destruction of our fragile ecosystem.

Clearly, time is running out, as oil is now within about 10 miles of the coast, possibly reaching the shoreline Friday. A third leak was just discovered, which government officials said is spewing five times as much oil into the water as originally estimated — about 5,000 barrels a day from the blown-out well. BP PLC, which operated the deepwater well 40 miles offshore, is now acknowledging that the government’s estimate of the leak is accurate.

Following reports Wednesday that part of the oil sheen broke off and is encroaching on Louisiana’s coast, Gov. Bobby Jindal spoke with Secretary of the U.S. Department of Homeland Security Janet Napolitano late last night to request additional resources from the federal government as the state prepares for the potential impact of the oil spill.

The White House confirms that the military is working to determine how its aircraft, ships and equipment might be able to assist in containing and cleaning up the widening slick. On Wednesday, the Coast Guard and BP set fire to a portion of the crude oil floating in the Gulf in hopes of limiting the spill’s impact and damage to the coast.

“At this time, the Pass-A-Loutre Wildlife Management Area is expected to see the first impact of the oil spill,” Jindal said in a press release issued about 9:30 p.m. Wednesday.

By relying on models from the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration, areas in need of additional oil containment booms have been identified, Jindal noted. “We have requested additional booms to cover all the coastal areas that will be impacted by the oil spill. These will protect our coasts and fisheries in the event the oil reaches our shores. We also asked Secretary Napolitano that response teams be on-the-ground and ready to respond when the oil spill reaches our coast.”

This morning Congressman Anh “Joseph” Cao, R-New Orleans, issued a press release calling for two congressional hearings into the explosion and subsequent leak. Cao sent letters requesting hearings to leaders of both the House Committee on Transportation and Infrastructure and the House Committee on Oversight and Government Reform.

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