E2 Round-up: Salazar acknowledges oversight is lax, gulf fishing ban expanded, and frustration grows in Congress

He acknowledged insufficient regulation of the blow-out preventer, the supposed fail-safe last line of defense against a spill.

"But Mr. Salazar said that while 'many things went wrong' on the Deepwater Horizon rig, it 'would be premature for me today to put the finger on exactly what went wrong,'" the Journal reports.

Ben and my colleague Alex Bolton noted another component of Salazar's testimony. The Interior Secretary appeared to be siding with Republicans who have blocked attempts in the Senate to raise the liability cap on oil companies for oil disasters from $75 million to $10 billion.

Salazar said the higher cap could force some smaller oil companies out of business.

Federal agency expands fishing ban

As officials tesified in Washington, the impact of the massive oil spill became more evident in the Gulf region. The National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration expanded a no-fishing zone to cover around 19 percent of gulf waters, double the size of what the ban had been.

According to the New York Times, federal officials are already seeing some impact on fish and wildlife from the ongoing spill.

"Rowan W. Gould, the acting director of the Fish and Wildlife Service, said 156 sea turtle fatalities had been recorded in the gulf since April 30, about 100 more than usual at this time of year. Mr. Gould also said that a small number of oily birds, 35, had been recovered, including 23 dead birds directly linked to the spill," the Times reports. 

The Los Angeles Times says scientists believe more animials are dying out at sea, where their bodies sink: "'If birds are impacted by oil and they die there, they sink,' said Roger Helm, chief of environmental quality for the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service. The same goes for manatees, dolphins and whales that may succumb to oil many miles out to sea, leaving little evidence of their loss."

Frustration grows in Congress

The LA Times also noted a rising level of anger over the spill. During a hearing held by the Senate Environment and Public Works Committee, Chairwoman Barbara Boxer (D-Calif.) aired a May 17 video of the leak obtained from BP.

"'See it, there’s the oil,' she said, noting that oil was still spewing, even after a mile-long suction tube was inserted into the pipe. 'It’s not doing what a lot of us were hoping it would do.'"

Salazar had said a tube inserted into the leaking pipe was siphoning as much as 40 percent of the oil flow.