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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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Energy Secretary Steven Chu (l.) and Interior Secretary Ken Salazar hold a press conference outside the BP command center in Houston Wednesday to address the Gulf oil spill.

Pat Sullivan/AP

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Two Obama administration officials arrived in Houston Wednesday to help bring the federal government's resources to bear on a wellhead leaking more than 200,000 gallons of oil a day into the Gulf of Mexico.

The arrival of Interior Secretary Ken Salazar and US Energy Secretary Steven Chu marked a subtle shift in the effort to stem the flow of oil. Federal officials insist that they are not taking over operations from BP, which is responsible for the cleanup and recovery efforts. But their presence here speaks to the fact that BP has now exhausted its most immediate and obvious solutions to stop renegade wellhead, and none appear to have had an effect.

IN PICTURES: Louisiana oil spill

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