"While BP is ultimately responsible for funding the cost of response and cleanup operations, my administration will continue to use every single available resource at our disposal, including potentially the Department of Defense to address the incident," President Obama said.
Napolitano said during a White House briefing Thursday that designating the spill as one of "national significance" means that "we can now draw down assets from across the country" to assist with cleanup.
She said 1,100 people are working on the cleanup effort, which so far has collected 685,000 gallons of oil and water from the polluted Gulf.
The White House said 174,060 feet of flotation booms had been deployed to corral the floating oil. It said an additional 243,260 feet is available and 265,460 feet has been ordered.
It said 76 tugs, barges and skimmers were on scene to help in containment and cleanup, along with six fixed-wing aircraft, 11 helicopters, 10 remotely operated vehicles, and two mobile offshore drilling units.
Louisiana shrimpers filed a class-action lawsuit against BP, the owners of the oil rig, and the Halliburton company, which they say was working to cement the rig's well and well-cap. The suit claimed that these companies and others were negligent in allowing the explosion that led to the spill, which they claim now threatens their livelihoods. They are asking for damages of at least $5 million.
Jindal said BP had agreed to allow local fishermen to assist in the expected cleanup. Under the agreement, shrimpers and fishermen could be contracted by BP to help. Jindal said the state was also training prison inmates to help clean up wildlife harmed by oil slicks moving toward shore.
Billy Nungesser, the president of Plaquemines Parish, the county closest to the spill, said he thought BP underestimated what's about to come ashore and are only asking for help now that it may be too late.
"We know the weather's coming. We know the wind is going to be 25 to 30 knots coming, blowing that oil into the bayous," he said. "Somebody's got to be able to draw a line in the sand."
BP's Chief Operating Officer, Douglas Suttles, admitted some responsibility for the disaster "because we're the lease holder," but assigning blame, he said, should come after the cleanup.
"I can tell you we're not worried about that right now," he said Thursday. "Who's ultimately responsible for what will come out over time through an investigations process."
Suttles said the rig was equipped with some safety devices that should have prevented this kind of spill.
"They didn't do that, we don't know why they didn't do that and ultimately we will find out," he said.
Suttles was quick to point out that another company was operating the rig at the time of the explosion, not London-based BP.
"I can say that we had equipment required by the regulations," he said. "We don't know why, when the accident occurred, and I should probably clarify, the lease we are drilling on is owed by BP and a few other companies."
One ray of hope is that about 30 percent of an oil slick usually evaporates in the strong southern sun, and microbes and waves take care of another large portion.
"Mother nature does a much better job at cleaning up than we do of picking up," said Ed Levine, an oceanographer with the National Oceanographic and Atmospheric Administration.