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From the Washington Post:

The growing oil slick in the Gulf of Mexico is not only an environmental danger, but also a widening political headache for President Obama, who just last month agreed to open vast stretches of the U.S. coastline to oil drilling.

White House attention to the oil leak, from a deepwater exploration well, has ramped up quickly: Obama was briefed on the cleanup operation Wednesday night and again Thursday morning, and the administration on Thursday declared the spill to be of “national significance,” clearing the way for a wider federal response to prevent environmental damage.

The oil spill, which occurred after an explosion on a rig operated by BP, threatens to highlight the environmental risk of offshore exploration — a risk that critics have long warned about and that Obama tried to downplay last month when he announced the expansion of drilling.