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Gulf oil leakage could worsen

By Steven Mufson Washington Post Staff Writer

Under a worst-case scenario, the flow of oil into the Gulf of Mexico from a damaged offshore rig could rise to 40,000 barrels a day -- eight times the current estimated leakage -- oil-industry executives told members of Congress on Tuesday.

Rep. Edward J. Markey (D-Mass.) said that the estimate was prompted by a question: What might happen if BP fails to cap the flow of oil from the well or funnel it through a giant steel box and pipe? He said the executives responded that, in a worst-case scenario, that oil could gush out at rates ranging from 10,000 barrels to 60,000 barrels a day, with 40,000 being the most likely in such circumstances.

The estimates were given in a meeting between lawmakers and executives from BP, Transocean and Halliburton -- all companies connected to the damaged rig. Three of the executives were in Washington, and three others spoke on phone links from the gulf region.

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