Delta National Wildlife Refuge in Louisiana is in peril after at least 18,000 gallons of crude oil were spilled into its waters early Tuesday morning. An area of approximately 160 square miles has been impacted by the spill – 40 square miles of marsh and 120 square miles offshore.

The spill originated at a pipeline owned by Cypress Pipe Line Company, a joint venture of Chevron Pipeline Co. and British Petroleum. Clean up efforts and an environmental impact assessment are underway.

The cause of the accident has not been confirmed, but according to Louisiana Department of Environmental Quality and Coast Guard spokesmen, long pipes known as “spuds” anchoring an ExxonMobil operated barge may have struck the pipeline. It seems that Chevron and ExxonMobil, the two largest oil companies in the U.S., are responsible for this potential ecological catastrophe.

This spill demonstrates the environmental toll the region’s ubiquitous petroleum industry has taken on the state of Louisiana. “This is just more evidence that the oil and gas industry don’t have the proper safety standards in place,” said Casey DeMoss Roberts of the New Orleans group of the Sierra Club. “The President claims drilling is safer than ever but our state is the cautionary tale.”

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