New Orleans, La. – Coast Guard Admiral Mary Landry says capping the oil spilling from the well leased by BP is the top priority.
"If we don't secure the well, yes, this could be one of the most significant oil spills in US history."
The well had been connected to a drilling platform that exploded into flames and sank last week 40 miles off the tip of Louisiana. That oil is now heading toward land.
Landry said burning it off could prevent contaminating delicate wetlands.
"It is the closest it's been to shore throughout this response and we're paying attention to that."
BP says it's spending about $6 million dollars a day to cap and clean up the 42,000 gallons of crude pouring into the Gulf. Some emergency response teams are preparing floating barriers to protect the fragile coastline.
For NPR News, I'm Eileen Fleming in New Orleans.