Obama arrives in Gulf region to inspect efforts to battle oil spill

NEW ORLEANS -- President Barack Obama arrived here early Sunday afternoon to visit the Coast Guard center to observe efforts to halt the catastrophic events of an oil spill that continues to pollute the Gulf of Mexico.

The White House made the decision Friday for Obama to make the trip to see the effects of the spill and what is being done to limit damage to the coast.

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After landing here in rain and heavy winds, Obama traveled by motorcade to Venice Coast Guard Center in Venice, La. 

Venice is at the tip of Louisiana closest to the spill area, Gibbs said, and thus likely to get hit first.

At a Coast Guard station in Venice, Commandant Admiral Thad Allen, who was put in charge of the federal oil spill response on Saturday, and Environmental Protection Agency Administrator Lisa Jackson briefed Obama about shipping lanes as the president studied a map of the region.

British Petroleum and government officials continue to try to cap the well and plug the leaks as the well damaged in the Gulf 12 days ago continues to release oil into the ocean in what observers think could be the worst spill in U.S. history.

White House press secretary Robert Gibbs told reporters on Air Force One that the administration has been working with BP from the beginning and planning for a worst case scenario. 


"The president just believed it was important to get down there as soon as he could and the quickest we could get down was today," Gibbs said.

While in the air, Obama received a 50-minute briefing on the situation from Deputy National Security Adviser John Brennan and Office of Energy and Climate Change Policy Director Carol Browner.

“It is a serious situation," Gibbs said of what Obama learned in the briefing. "I wouldn’t characterize it necessarily as a worsening situation but as a continuing, very serious situation with a lot of oil leaking.”

After landing, the president was greeted by former congressman and Louisiana Gov. Bobby Jindal (R). The two men engaged in a vigorous discussion on the tarmac while a light rain fell on them.

This story was updated at 4:30 p.m.