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Commentary: Gulf isn't the only thing sullied by BP oil spill

As is now clear (and all too globular on the shores of the Gulf Coast) BP has thoroughly bungled its response to the Deepwater Horizon oil disaster.

So has the Obama administration, by ceding so much authority to BP.

Some 35 days have passed since an explosion on the BP-leased oil rig killed 11 workers and triggered a spill that first seemed containable but then grew and grew and grew.

From the start, federal officials accepted BP's estimates of the daily volume of gushed oil, with little attempts at independent verification. They refused to intervene as BP deployed a toxic dispersant on the oil that had never before been used on such a vast scale.

In recent days, federal officials have joined their Louisiana counterparts in being "beyond patient" with efforts by BP — whose corporate motto is "Beyond Petroleum" — to cap the well. Yet at the same time, the administration has continued to grant environmental waivers for drilling projects in the gulf, even as it acknowledges it lacks the wherewithal to stop and respond to a deepwater drilling accident.

Responsibility resides beyond the current occupants of the White House. As was its pattern, the Bush administration loaded up the Mineral Management Service with officials friendly to industry.

At the Lake Charles office of the MMS, officials accepted tickets to hunting trips and a Peach Bowl game courtesy of oil and gas companies, Between 2005 and 2007, they also allowed operators of rigs to fill out their own inspection reports, according to inspector general's report that was disclosed Tuesday by the New York Times.

Congress also was asleep at the switch. Few in Congress bothered to monitor the risks taken by oil companies as they experimented with oil drilling techniques at ever-deeper depths. At a minimum, Congress shouldn't be granting permits for methods of energy production that can't first demonstrate a capacity for quickly ending a leak or other potential disaster.

There's little the federal government can do now to save birds, beaches and marshes blotted with oil along the gulf.

To read the complete editorial, visit www.sacbee.com.

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