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May 27, 2010
Gulf oil spill worst in U.S. history
COVINGTON, La. (AP) -- An untested procedure to plug the blown-out oil well in the Gulf of Mexico seemed to be working, officials said Thursday, but new estimates from scientists showed the spill has already surpassed the Exxon Valdez as the worst in U.S. history. A team of scientists trying to determine how much oil has been flowing since the offshore rig Deepwater Horizon exploded April 20 and sank two days later found the rate was more than twice and possibly up to five times as high as previously thought. The fallout from the spill has stretched all the way to Washington, where the head of the federal agency that oversees offshore drilling resigned under pressure Thursday. Even using the most conservative estimate, the new numbers mean the leak has grown to nearly 19 million gallons over the past five weeks, surpassing the size of the 1989 Exxon Valdez disaster in Alaska, which at about 11 million gallons had been the nation's worst spill. Under the highest Gulf spill estimate, nearly 39 million gallons may have leaked, enough to fill 30 school gymnasiums. (29 images)

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Reporter Anderson Cooper is reflected in oil filled water during a tour of areas where oil has come ashore May 26, 2010 in Blind Bay, La. Getty Images / Win McNamee


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Oil streaks into the Gulf of Mexico May 26, 2010 near Brush Island, Louisiana. Getty Images / Win McNamee



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Oil floats ashore at the Grand Isle East State Park May 27, 2010 on Grand Isle, Louisiana. BP and government officials are cautiously optimistic that the "top kill" solution of stopping the oil spill caused by the Deepwater Horizon disaster will be successful. Getty Images / Win McNamee



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In this Sunday, May 23, 2010 photo provided by Greenpeace, crews try to clean up oil from the Deepwater Horizon oil spill along the Mississippi Delta, just east of the mouth of the Mississippi River. AP / Greenpeace / Daniel Beltra



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Pelicans take flight near an oil covered shoreline on May 26, 2010 in Brush Island, La. Getty Images / Win McNamee



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Birds take flight near an oil covered shoreline on May 26, 2010 in the Gulf of Mexico near Brush Island, La. Getty Images / Win McNamee



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A hand covered with crude oil points to an oiled marsh where oil has come ashore May 26, 2010 near Brush Island, La. Getty Images / Win McNamee



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Oil from the Deepwater Horizon oil spill found at Pass-A-Loutre, Louisiana, more than a week ago has still not been cleaned up on Wednesday, May 26, 2010. MCT / Los Angeles Times / Carolyn Cole



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An oil soaked boom lays in the water where oil has come ashore May 26, 2010 near Brush Island, La. Getty Images / Win McNamee



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An oil soaked boom lays in the water where oil has come ashore May 26, 2010 near Brush Island, Louisiana. Getty Images / Win McNamee



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Media accompany Louisiana Gov. Bobby Jindal as he tours an area of Pass-A-Loutre on Wednesday, May 26, 2010, that was hit by oil over a week ago and has still not been cleaned up by BP or the U.S. Coast Guard. MCT / Los Angeles Times / Carolyn Cole



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A researcher surveys oil floating on the surface of the Gulf of Mexico near the coast of La., Wednesday, May 26, 2010. AP / Jae C. Hong



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Workers contracted by BP clean oil from the beach at the Grand Isle East State Park May 26, 2010 on Grand Isle, Louisiana. Getty Images / Win McNamee



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Members of the Louisiana National Guard install floating dams designed to protect the beach from incoming oil at the Grand Isle East State Park May 27, 2010 on Grand Isle, La. Getty Images / Win McNamee



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Workers conduct cleanup operations at Port Fourchon, La., Monday, May 24, 2010. MCT / Los Angeles Times / Carolyn Cole



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BP crews clean oil off of the beach at Port Fourchon, Louisiana, Monday, May 24, 2010. Oil was first spotted here on Wednesday, May 12. MCT / Miami Herald / Steven Johnson



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Louisiana Wildlife and Fisheries fisheries biologist Suzy Delaune, left, and Mandy Tumlin, conservation biologist for marine mammals and sea turtles, obtain field samples from a severely decomposed Bottlenose dolphin on Queen Bess Island north of Grand Isle Wednesday, May 26, 2010. AP / Richard Alan Hannon



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A pelican rests near an island impacted by oil from the Deepwater Horizon oil spill in Barataria Bay just inside the coast of Louisiana, Tuesday, May 25, 2010. AP / Jae C. Hong



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Oil has reached the shore of islands close to Grand Isle, La., where thousands of brown pelicans and other birds are nesting with their young, Monday, May 24, 2010. MCT / Los Angeles Times / Carolyn Cole



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A brown pelican (Pelecanus occidentalis) is washed at the International Bird Rescue Research Center in Fort Jackson, Louisian, May 26, 2010, to clean birds affected by oil leaked from the Deepwater Horizon wellhead MCT / Greenpeace / Daniel Beltra



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Oil floats ashore at the Grand Isle East State Park May 27, 2010 on Grand Isle, La. Getty Images / Win McNamee



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Oil floats ashore at the Grand Isle East State Park May 27, 2010 on Grand Isle, La. Getty Images / Win McNamee



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Oil is seen inside a marsh impacted from the Deepwater Horizon oil spill in Pass a Loutre, Monday, May 24, 2010. AP / Gerald Herbert



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This early Thursday morning, May 27, 2010 image made from video released by British Petroleum (BP PLC) shows equipment being used to try and plug a gushing oil well in the Gulf of Mexico. BP started pumping heavy mud into the leaking Gulf of Mexico well Wednesday and said everything was going as planned in the company's boldest attempt yet to plug the gusher that has spewed millions of gallons of oil over the last five weeks. AP / BP PLC



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Oil absorbent material is seen in place for the upcoming high tide to mitigate oil from the Deepwater Horizon oil spill on Elmer's Island in Grand Isle, La. Tuesday, May 25, 2010. AP / Gerald Herbert



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Workers hired by BP rake up globs of oil which has come ashore on the beaches in southern Louisiana, near Port Fourshon and Grand Isle. The oil coats the beaches and each wave brings a new batch on Saturday, May 22, 2010. MCT / Los Angeles Times / Carolyn Cole



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A crab skirts tarballs of oil on a beach at sunrise on May 23, 2010 on Grand Isle, La. O Getty Images / John Moore



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Bags of oil collected from the beach await pickup May 25, 2010 at Elmer's Island, La. Cleanup crews had worked for days to scrub the beach and dispose of the material. Getty Images / John Moore



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A sign marks A beach closed due to the Deepwater Horizon oil spill in Grand Isle, La., Thursday, May 27, 2010. AP / Jae C. Hong



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