Oil from a wrecked offshore drilling platform oozed into the marshes of southernmost Louisiana today, coating birds and threatening to create America's worst environmental disaster in two decades.
The oil began washing ashore near the mouth of the Mississippi River. Louisiana is home to 40 percent of the United States' wetlands and the oil now threatens some 400 species of animals, from shrimp to pelicans to river otters.
Meanwhile, the White House announced Friday that there will be no new offshore drilling until there is an "adequate review" of what happened.
"I continue to believe that domestic oil production is an important part of our overall strategy for energy security," said President Obama in a statement from the Rose Garden, "but I've always said it must be done responsibly, for the safety of our workers and our environment."
On ABC's "Good Morning America," White House senior adviser David Axelrod defended the administration's stance, but said it would need a fresh look in light of last week's disaster.
"No additional drilling has been authorized and none will until we find out what happened here and whether there was something unique and preventable here," Axelrod told George Stephanopoulos.
Members of the president's cabinet are descending on the region to observe the efforts to contain the massive oil spill that continues to leak thousands of barrels a day into the Gulf.
Department of Homeland Security Secretary Janet Napolitano, Department of the Interior Secretary Ken Salazar and Environmental Protection Agency Administrator Lisa Jackson are taking an aerial tour of the spill before an afternoon media briefing.
The oil is leaking at a rate of up to 210,000 gallons per day, according to an estimate from the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration. At that rate it would surpass the Exxon Valdez spill, which released a total of 11 million gallons of oil, in approximately 55 days, according to Nancy Kinner, the co-director of Co-Director of the Coastal Response Research Center at the University of New Hampshire.
Overnight BP said it would make another attempt to stop the flow of oil by pumping chemical dispersants down to the Gulf floor to break up the oil at the well, a method that has never been used a mile underwater.
"That is a technology that is in new stages and we are working closely with our scientific support from NOAA to analyze what the impact of that dispersant technology will be. And there will be very careful scrutiny but if it has applicability, which we think it does, we want to get that in place very quickly," Coast Guard Rear Admiral Sally Brice-O'Hara said on "Good Morning America."
The response team has been using dispersants, skimming and a controlled burn in an effort to control the spill. However, Brice-O'Hara said because of rough weather the skimming and controlled fires would be impossible today.
BP says it is pressing ahead with a plan to collect the leaking oil with a dome placed over the well. It is also working to drill a relief well to stop the flow, though it concedes that could take months.
Meanwhile in Washington, the Obama administration labeled the spill as an event of "national significance."