Search is on for pipeline leak after as much as 1.1 million gallons of oil sullies Gulf of Mexico

NEW ORLEANS (AP) — As much as 1.1 million gallons of oil may have been discharged into the Gulf of Mexico from a pipeline system off Louisiana's southeast coast, the U.S. Coast Guard said Tuesday.

The affected pipeline has been shut down but authorities were still trying to determine the exact location and cause of the leak, officials said during a Coast Guard news conference. None of the oil has reached land so far, though its affect on wildlife was still being investigated. A U.S. Fish and Wildlife official said two oily pelicans were sighted off the Louisiana coast Saturday, but still appeared active and able to fly.

The oil discharge was discovered amid high winds in the Gulf, which helped some of the oil evaporate and disperse. However, sheens and patches were will visible, said Capt. Kelly Denning, the Coast Guard's New Orleans sector commander.

The Coast Guard said the oil was discovered near a pipeline system owned by Main Pass Oil Company, a subsidiary of Houston-based Third Coast Infrastructure LLC. The company did not immediately respond to a Tuesday morning request for comment. A 67-mile stretch of pipeline was shut down last week as officials worked to pinpoint the location and cause of the leak.

WWL-TV reported Friday that pipeline gauges indicated 1.1 million gallons of oil were lost. Federal officials later confirmed the total could be that high. The amount is far less than the 2010 BP oil disaster, when 134 million gallons were released in the weeks following an oil rig explosion.

Still, an environmental group described the spill as “huge."

“From dolphins to birds to rare whales, Gulf animals are under siege yet again from a spill-prone industry that puts profit ahead of everything,” the Center for Biological Diversity said in a news release.