A Democratic lawmaker from Louisiana suggested Tuesday that crimes were probably committed in the run-up to the oil spill in the Gulf of Mexico.

Rep. Charlie Melancon (D-La.) said regulators had acted negligently and possibly criminally in their actions toward a BP-leased oil rig that sunk in late April and led to the massive spill in the Gulf.

Melancon, who is running for Senate this fall, said testimony before Congress suggested the Minerals Management Service, the chief regulator for offshore drilling, had waived parts of the National Environmental Policy Act.

"You can't waive a law, I don't care who you are," Melancon said during an appearance on Fox News.


"After Katrina, trying to get rules or regulations waived by department heads or by the president to make things move faster or easier in New Orleans and the region was almost an impossibility," the Democratic congressman added. "So the fact that somebody summarily waived a law, that's criminal."

The congressman's suggestion comes as President Barack Obama and his administration have seemed to open the door to criminal charges for BP or other officials as part of the government's investigation into the spill.

"If our laws were broken, leading to this death and destruction, my solemn pledge is that we will bring those responsible to justice on behalf of the victims of this catastrophe and the people of the Gulf region," Obama said during a Rose Garden availability Tuesday morning.

Attorney General Eric Holder, meanwhile, traveled to the Gulf on Tuesday to meet with federal prosecutors.

Melancon said he hadn't talked to the attorney general, but he thought the administration was being as diligent as possible in its probe into the matter. He said his own committee's work made it seem as though prosecutions might be necessary in the matter.

"We're in the process in the committee of jurisdiction that I'm on, we are determined to find out what went wrong, who caused it, was it negligence — in some instances, it obviously was — was it criminal, and it appears that maybe it is," he said. "But we need to prosecute anybody and everybody that caused the [deaths] of those 11 men, or caused this environmental disaster."

Cross-posted to the E2 Wire.