In a low voice heavy with emotion, Rep. Charlie Melancon (D-La.) cut short his testimony before a House subcommittee meeting Thursday on the gulf oil spill.
Melancon began by citing the string of natural disasters -- including Hurricanes Katrina, Gustav and Ike -- that have beset his constituents and all Louisianans. With his voice quavering and eyes filling with tears, he said of this latest "slow-motion" catastrophe: "Our culture is threatened, our coastal economy is threatened, and everything that I know and love is at risk. . . .Even though this marsh lies along coastal Louisiana, these are America's wetlands."
The three-term congressman, who is running for the Senate seat held by Republican David Vitter, could not go on, and asked that the remainder of his written comments be submitted for the record.
His testimony came as official estimates of the oil flow from a ruptured pipe on the sea floor vastly increased. Scientists say the BP well is spewing as much as 19,000 barrels a day, far more than the 5,000-a-day estimate that was cited since an explosion more than a month ago on the Deepwater Horizon drilling platform. The new estimate suggests that 17 million to 27 million gallons of oil have flowed the gulf, surpassing the 11 million gallons spilled by the Exxon Valdez in 1989.
Click play below to watch Melancon's full testimony (emotional part begins near the two-minute mark):
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