As the greatest environmental catastrophe in U.S. history has played out on Obama’s watch, the environmental movement has essentially given him a pass — all but refusing to unleash any vocal criticism against the president even as the public has grown more frustrated by Obama’s performance.

About a dozen environmental groups took out a full page ad in the Washington Post Tuesday — not to fault Obama over the ecological catastrophe but to thank him for putting on hold an Alaska drilling project. “We deeply appreciate your decision. …” the ad says to Obama…

Some say there’s little doubt that if a spill like the one in the Gulf took place on former President George W. Bush’s watch, environmental groups would have unleashed an unsparing fury on the Republican in the White House. For their liberal ally, Obama, they seem willing to hold their tongues.

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Newly released government inspection reports show BP’s Deepwater Horizon oil rig was only inspected six times in 2008 even though government regulations say drilling rigs should be inspected every month. In total, the rig missed 16 inspections since January 2005, according to the documents…

Inspectors found five incidents of non-compliance at the rig dating back to 2001.

The last government inspection of the rig was on April 1 by Eric Neal, a government inspector who had only recently started his drilling inspection training, yet he was sent to the rig by himself to do the inspection.

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In an interview with POLITICO, the president said: “I think it’s fair to say, if six months ago, before this spill had happened, I had gone up to Congress and I had said we need to crack down a lot harder on oil companies and we need to spend more money on technology to respond in case of a catastrophic spill, there are folks up there, who will not be named, who would have said this is classic, big-government overregulation and wasteful spending.”

The president also implied that anti-big government types such as tea party activists were being hypocritical on the issue.

“Some of the same folks who have been hollering and saying ‘do something’ are the same folks who, just two or three months ago, were suggesting that government needs to stop doing so much,” Obama said. “Some of the same people who are saying the president needs to show leadership and solve this problem are some of the same folks who, just a few months ago, were saying this guy is trying to engineer a takeover of our society through the federal government that is going to restrict our freedoms.”

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Like the attacks by Al Qaeda, the disaster in the Gulf was preceded by ample warnings – yet the administration had ignored them. Instead of cracking down on MMS, as he had vowed to do even before taking office, Obama left in place many of the top officials who oversaw the agency’s culture of corruption. He permitted it to rubber-stamp dangerous drilling operations by BP – a firm with the worst safety record of any oil company – with virtually no environmental safeguards, using industry-friendly regulations drafted during the Bush years. He calibrated his response to the Gulf spill based on flawed and misleading estimates from BP – and then deployed his top aides to lowball the flow rate at a laughable 5,000 barrels a day, long after the best science made clear this catastrophe would eclipse the Exxon Valdez…

Most troubling of all, the government has allowed BP to continue deep-sea production at its Atlantis rig – one of the world’s largest oil platforms. Capable of drawing 200,000 barrels a day from the seafloor, Atlantis is located only 150 miles off the coast of Louisiana, in waters nearly 2,000 feet deeper than BP drilled at Deepwater Horizon. According to congressional documents, the platform lacks required engineering certification for as much as 90 percent of its subsea components – a flaw that internal BP documents reveal could lead to “catastrophic” errors. In a May 19th letter to Salazar, 26 congressmen called for the rig to be shut down immediately. “We are very concerned,” they wrote, “that the tragedy at Deepwater Horizon could foreshadow an accident at BP Atlantis.”

The administration’s response to the looming threat? According to an e-mail to a congressional aide from a staff member at MMS, the agency has had “zero contact” with Atlantis about its safety risks since the Deepwater rig went down.