THE NATURE (AND LIMITS) OF BP TAKING RESPONSIBILITY…. When President Obama appeared in Louisiana yesterday to discuss efforts to deal with the oil spill disaster, he emphasized that he would “spare no effort to respond to this crisis for as long as it continues. And we will spare no resource to clean up whatever damage is caused.” But, the president added, “Let me be clear: BP is responsible for this leak; BP will be paying the bill.”

BP agrees. Sort of.

BP PLC said Monday that it will pay for all the cleanup costs from a massive oil spill in the Gulf of Mexico that could continue spewing crude for at least another week.

The company posted a fact sheet on its website saying it took responsibility for the response to the Deepwater Horizon spill and would pay compensation for legitimate claims for property damage, personal injury and commercial losses.

Tony Hayward, BP’s chief executive officer told ABC this morning that his company isn’t responsible for the accident, but “we are responsible for the oil and for dealing with it and cleaning the situation up.” And what about the cause of this mess? Hayward noted that the equipment on the Deepwater Horizon rig was owned by Transocean Ltd., which operated the rig.

If that sounds to you like BP is already taking steps to shield itself, we’re on the same page.

Indeed, Zachary Roth reports this morning on the energy company’s efforts with individuals along the coast.

BP has been offering $5000 payments to residents of coastal Alabama areas, in exchange for essentially giving up their right to sue the oil giant over its deadly Gulf Coast spill, according to the state’s attorney general.

AG Troy King last night urged BP to stop the effort, and told Alabamians to be wary. “People need to proceed with caution and understand the ramifications before signing something like that,” King said, according to the Alabama press.

Nothing establishes goodwill like an oil company paying off individuals before they even know the extent of the still-unfolding disaster.

As for conditions in the Gulf, inflatable booms deployed to help catch the oil spill are breaking down in inclement weather, rendering the booms practically useless.

For now, however, winds have helped prevent the oil from reaching the coastline, and according to an Associated Press report, the NOAA does not expect the spill to reach the shore within the next 72 hours.

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Steve Benen

Follow Steve on Twitter @stevebenen. Steve Benen is a producer at MSNBC's The Rachel Maddow Show. He was the principal contributor to the Washington Monthly's Political Animal blog from August 2008 until January 2012.