White House: Undoubtedly Worst Oil Spill in U.S. History

Day 36 of the Gulf Coast oil spill with no end in sight.

May 24, 2010, 6:55 PM

May 25, 2010— -- The oil leak that has spewed millions of gallons of crude into the Gulf of Mexico will undoubtedly become the worst in U.S. history, the White House said today.

"I don't think there is any doubt, unfortunately," Carol Browner, assistant to the president for energy and climate change, told George Stephanopoulos on "Good Morning America" this morning.

BP is expected to try another solution Wednesday, called the "top kill," to stop the leaking well head. BP said there is a 60 to 70 percent chance of success, but Browner declined to put "odds" on the planned attempt.

"We are doing everything in our power to try and make it work," Browner said.

"GMA's" Sam Champion went diving with oceanographer Philippe Cousteau Jr. in the Gulf of Mexico and got a firsthand look at the toxic soup of oil and chemical dispersant that formed large underwater plumes as deep as 25 feet.

Champion reported that the mixture appeared to be breaking into small droplets that are capable of passing through the flesh of fish and birds and being picked up ocean currents.

"[It is] just this cloud of granular oil," Cousteau said. "And you can see it dispersing deeper and deeper into the water column. And, you know, what we're hearing is that there are plumes of oil like this beneath this surface like this at various different depths than can go for 10 or more miles."

Cousteau called it a "nightmare."

CLICK HERE to see Sam Champion's underwater dive in the Gulf of Mexico.

There has been a public dispute about the chemical dispersant and its toxicity.

The Environmental Protection Agency last week ordered BP to use a less toxic chemical dispersant but the company failed to comply. There are fewer dispersants being manufactured in the quantities needed, Browner said, and scientists are continuing to examine how the particular dispersant interacts with the environment.

"What the EPA did yesterday was direct BP to use less of this dispersant while they continue to study what other alternatives may be available," Browner said.

In response to questions being raised about whether BP will follow orders given by the administration, Browner said that BP will "absolutely comply" and is already complying with Monday's order.

"We have the mechanisms to ensure they comply and we will use those mechanisms," Browner said.

Gov. Bobby Jindal: Stop Spill or Get Out of the Way

Louisiana Gov. Bobby Jindal told the White House and BP Monday to either stop the oil spill or get out of his way.

Jindal has publicly expressed his frustration and wants the federal government to provide millions of feet of boom, in addition to approving an emergency permit for a state plan to dredge and build new barrier islands to keep the oil from reaching the marshes and wetlands.

Today Browner said officials are examining that proposal "very carefully."

"But I think it is important for people to note even by the governor's own estimation some of those things would not be in place for six to nine months," Browner said. "We need to make sure that what we are doing is going to work today. That is what we are committed to for those communities and we will continue to work with the governors to ensure that will happen."

The Republican governor is so desperate for the islands that he has said he'll build them even if it lands him in jail.

"We've been frustrated with the disjointed effort to date that has too often meant too little, too late for the oil hitting our coast," Jindal said Monday.

The oil has already hit more than 65 miles of shoreline, and the slick is now as big as Maryland and Delaware combined.

In Port Fourchon, people are already knee-deep in oil. Teams of cleanup crews have descended on the beach, sopping up and bagging countless gallons of crude. There is so much oil in the water that layers of boom designed to soak it up have to be replaced continuously.

"It's absorbed a good amount of oil," said Lt. Michelle Curry, who oversees the beach battle for the U.S. Coast Guard.

It's easy to see what's at stake. While beaches can be cleaned up, the marshes cannot, and marshes make up the majority of Louisiana's coastline.

Many marshes have already been lost. Jindal said that oil has seeped as far as 10 miles into some of the state's fragile marshlands, areas teeming with wildlife.

In Port Fourchon, crews will try to keep up with what can seem to be a futile fight. They're fighting an enemy that grows every day, gushing far more oil than anyone can mop up.

"It is heartbreaking," said Curry, who lives in the same region that she's now trying to save. "I do hear [the community's] stories and I feel for them. And I'm just as frustrated as they are, and we're all doing our best to try to get this thing manageable and cleaned up."

Click here to return to the "Good Morning America" Web site.

ABC News Live

ABC News Live

24/7 coverage of breaking news and live events