AUSTIN, Texas -- Texas Gov. Rick Perry said Tuesday it s not wise to speculate about what caused an explosion and massive oil spill in the Gulf of Mexico, and he defended his use of the term act of God to describe the disaster.

Perry said Tuesday the phrase which he used in a speech in Washington, D.C., on Monday when discussing the spill is a legal definition and that his point is nobody knows what happened at the oil rig off the Louisiana coast. The undersea well has been spewing 200,000 gallons of oil a day.

The giant oil slick is threatening the Gulf Coast from southeastern Louisiana to Florida. Rig operator BP PLC has been trying unsuccessfully to cap the leak, which began April 20.

If you will go look up the definition of Act of God, we ve used it in legal terms for a long time in this state, Perry told reporters outside the Texas Capitol. Nobody knows what happened and I said that in my remarks, that there were a lot of speculations. It could have been an act of God.

It may be an accident and it may be something else, he said.

The Democratic group Lone Star Project criticized the Republican governor s remarks as detached arrogance.

Eleven men died when the drilling platform exploded. Hundreds of miles of coastland could be damaged for years and even decades. The families of those who died and the victims of the environmental damage deserve a full accounting for the human errors that caused the failure at the rig, the death of loved ones and the spoiling of our Gulf coastline, said Matt Angle, director of Lone Star Project.

As he did in Washington, the governor cautioned against stopping oil drilling because of the spill, and said no one should speculate about what happened to further their political agenda.

I go back to the safety of those workers, the safety of our coast. But you balance that with the impact that a knee jerk reaction to stop all drilling, Perry said.

He said he watched a news report featuring one of the young Kennedys speculating that this hadn t been done and that hadn t been done. And frankly, speculation to promote one s position is irresponsible. Find out what the facts are before you start speculating. ... It s the reason I didn t take a gratuitous shot at the administration relative to their response on this. I think at the end of the day we ll have a better idea of whether this administration responded quickly enough and appropriately enough.

Perry planned to be on a conference call Tuesday with Homeland Security Secretary Janet Napolitano and other coastal governors to discuss the spill, which has not reached Texas shores.

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