By Ben Geman - 04/29/10 02:50 PM EDT
President Barack Obama's daily intelligence briefing on Thursday began with an update on the expanding oil spill in the Gulf of Mexico that is threatening Louisiana's shoreline.
The spill has heavy political implications for Obama's plans to expand offshore drilling and for a Senate debate over climate change legislation.
Obama received a 20-minute update about the spill, White House spokesman Robert Gibbs announced via Twitter.
The briefing comes a day after the U.S. Coast Guard announced that as much as five times more oil is gushing from a damaged subsea well than previously believed.
The spill has prompted a massive federal and industry effort to contain the oil. But cleanup crews have been unable to stem the leak since the rig, leased to BP, exploded and sank last week.
The disaster — which is believed to have killed 11 workers — has
quickly influenced political battles over offshore oil-and-gas drilling
and prompted multiple federal and Capitol Hill investigations.
Environmentalists and some Democrats who oppose drilling — including New Jersey Democratic Sens. Robert Menendez and Frank Lautenberg — say the spill should prompt reconsideration of administration plans to expand offshore development.
The climate and energy measure that Sens. John Kerry (D-Mass.), Lindsey Graham (R-S.C.) and Joe Lieberman (I-Conn.) are crafting also contains measures to promote wider drilling.
White House officials say the spill must be investigated deeply, and that rig safety and accident response capabilities must be continually enhanced.
But they have pushed back against the idea that the accident should prompt a scaling-back of administration proposals to expand offshore oil-and-gas leasing.
High-level White House officials, including senior advisor Valerie Jarrett, met with senior BP executives earlier this week, and White House spokesman Bill Burton said Wednesday that Obama is “is very closely monitoring the situation.”