Gov. Haley Barbour said Tuesday he doesn't want Mississippi residents to panic about the oil slick in the Gulf of Mexico.
Barbour said most of the slick is just "a very, very, very thin layer of oil residue."
He said it's possible the oil would have a minimal impact if it ever makes landfall in the state -- or that there could be "disastrous" results.
"I think the most important thing is for people not to panic and not to assume the worst," Barbour said. "Some in the news media keep forcing this on the public as the equivalent of Exxon Valdez. Well, the difference is just enormous."
BP PLC has been unable to shut off the undersea well spewing at least 210,000 gallons a day since an offshore drilling platform blew up and sank on April 20, killing 11 workers. BP operated the rig that was owned by Transocean Ltd.
The Valdez was a tanker that dumped 11 million gallons of oil in Alaska's Prince William Sound in 1989.
Barbour said comparing Prince William Sound to the Gulf of Mexico is "kind of like my bathtub and the Pacific Ocean" because one body of water is so much smaller than the other.
Barbour, a Republican in his second term, said his administration initially didn't do a very good job of communicating with local officials or the public about the oil that has escaped into the gulf water since a rig exploded two weeks ago. But he said he believes communication has improved since this past weekend.
"It was clear to me when I went down the first time that people were very pessimistic and almost fatalistic, that they thought something terrible was imminent and felt helpless to do anything about it," Barbour said. "That was contrary to the briefings I had received from the federal government and from the state officials working on this."
BP LLC is responsible for all cleanup costs for the Gulf of Mexico oil spill, under the federal Oil Pollution Act. Barbour said BP has been in constant contact with his office, the state Department of Marine Resources and the state Department of Environmental Quality.