It looks pretty bad.

The oil leak triggered by a deadly rig blast off the coast of Louisiana has the potential to cause more environmental damage than the 1989 Exxon Valdez spill, one of the largest ecological disasters ever recorded, some observers say.

“As it is now, it’s already looking like this could be the worst oil spill since the Valdez,” John Hocevar, oceans campaign director for Greenpeace USA, told msnbc.com on Thursday.

“It’s quite possible this will end up being worse than the Valdez in terms of environmental impact since it seems like BP will be unable to cap the spill for months. In terms of total quantity of oil released, it seems this will probably fall short of Exxon Valdez. But because of the habitat, the environmental impact will be worse.”

Oil rigs actually have a fairl impressive record of avoiding spillage. I’m not sure exactly what happened here and why failsafes didn’t work to avoid this. As I understand it, 210,000 gallons per day are spewing into the Gulf of Mexico, and there doesn’t look to be any way to plug this for weeks. I’m sure the lawsuits are already being drawn up.

The Louisiana coastline is one of the most diverse and verdant areas on earth. The shrimp fishing alone is a massive industry. If the oil washes up into the brackish swamps and bayous of the area, that might have devastating consequences not just on the local wildlife, but on entire communities which depend on the rich wildlife both inland and offshore.

Add to this the continuing erosion of Louisiana swampland that is no longer fed from Mississippi and Atchafalaya floods and you’ve got a serious problem here for the future of south Louisiana.