Effort to Contain Spill Stalls as Oil Nears Fla.

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WASHINGTON -- The latest attempt to contain the oil gusher in the Gulf of Mexico has stalled after a saw became stuck as it was cutting through a pipe on a busted well.

Meanwhile, the oil spill in the Gulf is making its way closer to the Florida coast.

State officials have confirmed that an oil sheen is currently located about nine miles off the coast of Pensacola.

"It's inevitable that we will see it on the beaches," said Keith Wilkins, deputy chief of neighborhood and community services for Escambia County, Fla.

Crews have been shoring up miles of boom and preparing for the spill that could hit the beaches as early as Wednesday.

Florida will be the fourth state affected by the spill. Floating crude oil has already been reported along barrier islands in Alabama and Mississippi. Louisiana officials have said the slick has impacted 125 miles of its coastline.

BP, Coast Guard Remain Optimistic

Remotely-controlled robots were slicing away at ruined pipes over British Petroleum's crippled well. Once completed, the oil company hopes it can maneuver a cap over the well's opening.

Should this third major attempt to cap the well fail, it will leave even more oil spewing into the Gulf of Mexico -- now estimated to be around 100,000 gallons a day.

But BP and Coast Guard officials still sound hopeful.

"I think there is a pretty good level of confidence that one of them will go on and we will be able to contain some oil," U.S. Coast Guard Adm. Thad Allen said.

"This is our third containment system we've deployed. We learned a lot from that and we've applied all the learning from those two to this system, and that's why I'm actually pretty confident it'll work," BP Chief Operation Officer Doug Suttles said.

White House Opens Criminal Probe

In the meantime, beleaguered BP is facing trouble on all fronts.

U.S. Attorney General Eric Holder traveled to the Gulf region and announced the Justice Department is considering criminal charges.

"We have what we think is a sufficient basis for us to begin a criminal investigation," Holder said.

"If our laws were broken, leading to this death and destruction, my solemn pledge is that we will bring those responsible to justice," President Obama said.

Such talk, and the failure to stop the massive spill, have sent BP's stock plunging this week, reducing billions of dollars from the oil giant's worth, even as the cost to BP of directly dealing with the spill has now topped $1 billion.

But Florida state officials aren't worried about BP's woes. They're desperate to get help dealing with the damage caused by its spill.

"You wouldn't tell a drowning person 'give us time to do another study,'" Louisiana Gov. Bobby Jindal said.

Somewhere between 20 million and 40 million gallons of oil have now spewed into the Gulf, already making this spill roughly three times larger than the Exxon Valdez disaster.

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John Jessup

John Jessup

CBN News Anchor

John Jessup serves as the main news anchor for CBN, a position he assumed after 10 years reporting for the network in Washington, D.C. His work in broadcast news has earned him several awards in reporting, producing, and coordinating elections coverage. Follow John on Twitter @JohnCBNNews and "like" him at Facebook.com/John.V.Jessup.