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MDEQ briefs lawmakers as oil leak grows

GULF OF MEXICO — An official with the Mississippi Department of Environmental Quality says state agencies are working with federal authorities to “forcefully, aggressively” respond to the oil spill in the Gulf of Mexico.

However, late yesterday the Coast Guard announced that another leak had been found, and that the well was leaking five times the crude previously estimated.

Alice Perry, who is a top assistant to the MDEQ director, met Wednesday at the State Capitol with a dozen Gulf Coast lawmakers.

She says the oil slick was not an imminent threat to Mississippi’s barrier islands or coastline.

Perry says the department is sending air quality monitoring equipment to the Gulf Coast in case it’s needed as the oil slick is burned.

Lawmakers say they’re concerned about how the spill could affect the fishing industry, tourism and residents’ quality of life.

That concern could be growing. It was announced late yesterday that a third leak had been discovered, and that the well was spewing 5,000 gallons of crude daily. The previous estimate was 1,000 gallons. And, the leak might be closer to land, threatening to impact the coastline as early as Friday.

In Washington, Sen. Roger Wicker (R-Miss.) today pressed for the transfer of $15 million in existing appropriations funding from the Oil Spill Liability Trust Fund (OSLTF) to the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) for oil spill planning, research and response obligations.

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