Energy giant BP, accused by the U.S. government of failing to share information in a timely fashion about the Gulf of Mexico oil spill, was forging ahead on Friday with efforts to contain the gushing crude.
The pressure to act is huge. TV images of oil sloshing into Louisiana's marshes has underscored the gravity of the situation and raised public concern about the catastrophe, keeping it high up on the political agenda in Washington.
"It's depressing for sure. This is what we were hoping wouldn't happen," said Randy Lanctot, executive director of the Louisiana Wildlife Federation.
Deep red oil coated miles of coastline along the southern tip of the Mississippi River delta, the harbinger of what many in Louisiana fear will be a much more devastating inundation.
In places, a thick oily sludge had washed up into coastal inlets where it nestled amid the marsh grass while elsewhere a rainbow sheen of oil floated off the coast suggesting more oil would soon wash onto the low-lying islands.
In a clear sign of Washington's growing frustration with BP's handling of the spiraling environmental disaster, the U.S. government accused BP of being less than transparent about the unfolding situation, while a senior lawmaker said its actions amounted to a "cover-up."
"In responding to this oil spill, it is critical that all actions be conducted in a transparent manner, with all data and information related to the spill readily available to the United States government and the American people," Homeland Security Secretary Janet Napolitano and Environmental Protection Agency Administrator Lisa Jackson said.
They said in a letter on Thursday to BP CEO Tony Hayward that despite claims by BP that it was striving to keep the public and the government informed, "those efforts, to date, have fallen short in both their scope and effectiveness."
The statement followed allegations that BP had failed to share everything it knew about the extent of the damage and the amount of crude flowing unchecked from the ruptured well.
BP's stock fell 2.40 percent in early London trading on Friday. The company has lost around $30 billion in value in the month since the rig explosion, which killed 11 workers, sparked the disaster.
BP said on Thursday it was siphoning 5,000 barrels (210,000 gallons/795,000 litres) per day of oil from the gusher, from 3,000 barrels a day previously.
"The oil plume escaping from the riser pipe has visibly declined today," BP spokesman Mark Proegler said after the company announced that a mile-long (1.6 km) tube was tapping into the larger of two leaks from the well.
However, a live video feed of the leak, provided by BP, showed a black plume of crude oil still billowing out into the deep waters.
BP has been estimating the leak was flowing at a rate of 5,000 barrels per day, but scientists and the government have questioned that figure.
Scientists analyzing video of the oil gushing from the seabed have pegged the spill's volume at about 70,000 barrels (2.9 million gallons/11 million liters) per day.
"It's just not working," U.S. Senator Barbara Boxer, who heads the Senate Environment and Public Works Committee, told CNN as she watched the BP video. The California Democrat denounced a "cover-up" of the real size of the oil spill.
BP is scrambling on other fronts as well after the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency ordered it to identify safer dispersants by Friday that can be used to contain the spill.
And a lawsuit was filed on Thursday by a BP shareholder in Alaska's state Superior Court in Anchorage alleging BP failed to follow safety rules and procedures in the Gulf and in its North Slope operations in Alaska.
BP did not immediately respond to the suit.