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As oil approaches coast, officials admit only BP can stop leak

Coast Guard warns against removing BP

Officials are beginning to push back on suggestions by activists and members of Congress that the federal government should assume control of the emergency response effort in the Gulf.

Removing BP from its lead role in containing the oil spill will solve nothing, said Coast Guard Commandant Thad Allen, the “national incident commander” managing government response.

“To push BP out of the way would raise a question: to replace them with what?” he said in a briefing Monday.

His remarks followed Interior Secretary Ken Salazar’s threats to remove BP on Sunday.

“What is unique about this problem on the ocean floor is that all the capability and capacity to bring to bear on the solution is owned by the private sector,” Allen told the PBS NewsHour Monday night.

Some criticize Allen for trusting BP, which they say lost credibility early on by minimizing the extent of the spill.

A New Orleans Times-Picayune columnist argues:

The man Allen said he trusts is the same guy who has claimed the spill is “relatively tiny” in context of the “very big ocean.” [BP CEO Tony] Hayward also argued that the environmental impact is likely to be “very, very modest” — a comment that actually drew a well-earned rebuke from Allen himself, who correctly cast it as “potentially catastrophic for this country.”

Despite his professed trust in Hayward’s intentions, Allen should keep that exchange at the front of his mind.

He does need to work with BP of course, but he’s under no obligation to defend the company’s honor, or that of its highest profile leader.

Photos: Gulf spill reaches the coast

In the last week, oil has finally reached the Louisiana shore, coating birds, insects and coastal plants in crude oil.

“It has even announced its arrival on the Louisiana coast with a fittingly ugly symbol: brown pelicans, the state bird, dyed with crude,” The New York Times reported.’s Big Picture captures the devastation of the coastline in 39 heartbreaking photos.

Offshore drilling regulators accepted industry gifts

Employees of the Minerals Management Service accepted gifts from the oil industry, according to a new report by the Interior Department’s inspector general.

Among those in violation of ethics rules were employees at the Lake Charles, La. office, a  unit in charge of offshore oil and gas resources regulation, according to The Wall Street Journal.

Salazar disclosed details of the findings in an email Tuesday. The gifts included sports tickets and lunches accepted between 2000 and 2008.

“This deeply disturbing report is further evidence of the cozy relationship between some elements of MMS and the oil and gas industry,” Salazar told the Journal. “I appreciate and fully support the inspector general’s strong work to root out the bad apples in MMS and we will follow through on her recommendations, including taking any and all appropriate personnel actions including termination, discipline, and referrals of any wrongdoing for criminal prosecution.”

Salazar ordered the reorganization of MMS earlier this month.

According to the Times, there is no evidence that the ethics violations contributed to the Deepwater Horizon oil spill.

A fish-eye view of the spill’s toxic soup

ABC News reporter Sam Champion dives into the middle of the spill and finds “what critics say BP does not want you to see.”

He observes “oil and chemical dispersant swirling together into a toxic soup forming large plumes under the surface of water 25 feet deep, perhaps deeper.”

“A lot of people are saying that when you apply chemical dispersant… it disappears, the oil goes away,” said Phillipe Cousteau Jr., who accompanied Champion on the dive. “This is evidence that doesn’t happen… The oil is now suspended.”

See a video of his dive here.

This report follows controversy over whether the chemical dispersant the BP is using to break up the oil is too toxic. In a letter last week, the EPA ordered BP to find a less toxic dispersant in three days.  But finding an alternative has proven harder than originally thought.

“There are not as many being manufactured as people thought in the quantities” needed, White House energy adviser Carol Browne said in a round of television appearances on morning news shows, according to the Associated Press.

“We need to determine whether or not those alternatives are available, and the EPA is doing that, but in the meantime, EPA has directed BP to use less of the dispersants and they’re required to follow that,” she said.

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