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As BP stumbles, an expanding federal role in Gulf oil spill

After BP's repeated failed attempts to cap the well at the center of the Gulf oil spill, the Obama administration is gradually becoming more involved. This week, it has sent two cabinet members to the scene and devoted more of its science resources to the relief effort.

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The arrival of two cabinet secretaries on the ground is part of the White House’s increased efforts this week to show it is addressing the spill in a hands-on way. The oil has already reached the shorelines of coastal islands off the Alabama and Louisiana coasts this week, and dozens of dead water mammals such as dolphins and sea turtles have washed up on shore.

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Since the April 20 explosion of the Deepwater Horizon oil rig, BP, which leased the rig and owns the well, has conducted a series of efforts to stop the rush of oil from the damaged wellhead and contain the oil from spreading further into the Gulf. Efforts to treat the oil that has already escaped are continuing to keep the oil from hitting mainland shorelines, but undersea efforts – from using robotic arms to turn off a preventative valve to a four-story dome – have failed.

BP Chief Operating Officer Doug Suttles said he was encouraged by “the comments and sense of optimism” of both Salazar and Secrertary Chu, and that their assistance will help his team “take no action which can make the situation worse.”

In addition to his its remediation goals, the Interior Department is also set to conduct a $29 million study of the safety of offshore drilling in the gulf. A moratorium on new leases to drill will not lift until that report is complete.

IN PICTURES: Louisiana oil spill