E2 Round-up: Massive oil spill begins reaching Gulf shores, a political challenge to drilling plans, and BP’s green image suffers badly

The oil that spewed from a damaged subsea well – which stems from last week’s rig explosion about 40 miles from Louisiana’s coast – threatens to harm sensitive wildlife populations and seafood beds.

President Obama has dispatched Interior Secretary Ken Salazar, Homeland Security Secretary Janet Napolitano and EPA Administrator Lisa Jackson to Louisiana Friday as the cleanup effort continues.

The rig is owned by Transocean and was leased to BP. Louisiana fishermen and shrimpers have sued both companies, claiming the disaster will ruin the state’s fishing industry, Bloomberg reports.

* The spill is creating a political headwinds for plans for expand offshore drilling

There’s plenty more coverage Friday of an issue that we’ve been writing about in recent days: The spill’s effects on Obama administration plans to expand offshore oil-and-gas development.

“The accident in the gulf may provide more firepower for the critics on the left who for years have lobbied presidents and Congress to keep in place federal moratoriums on further offshore exploration. Those moratoriums have expired,” The Washington Post reports.

The Los Angeles Times notes that “The massive oil spill in the Gulf of Mexico could trigger changes in President Obama's recently announced plans to open new coastal areas for offshore drilling, administration officials said Thursday.”

* BP’s green image is suffering heavy damage

The AP, meanwhile, looks at how the spill is sullying BP’s carefully cultivated image as a green oil company, noting “BP faces perhaps the biggest public relations challenge an oil company has experienced in the U.S. since the Exxon Valdez tanker disaster in Alaska in 1989.”

“BP's environmentally friendly image — its logo is a green and yellow sunburst — has outlasted past accidents, including a Texas refinery blast and Alaska pipeline spill. But last week's deadly explosion on a BP-operated oil rig and the looming environmental damage are shaping up to be a major problem, experts said,” their story states.

The New York Times looks at the same issue, noting that regardless of how much the spill costs the London-based oil giant financially, “the long-term damage to BP’s reputation — and possibly, its future prospects for drilling in the Gulf of Mexico — is likely to be far higher, according to industry analysts.”