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CAP calls for independent oil spill review

By Juliet Eilperin

One of the Obama administration's closest allies will call on Tuesday for an independent review of the BP oil spill.

Citing the precedent of independent probes into the Three Mile Island accident and the Challenger Space Shuttle explosion, the Center for American Progress says it's time for an independent commission to examine the massive leak in the Gulf of Mexico, rather than rely on an internal review.

"Any investigation must focus not only on BP, but also on the performance of federal and state agencies responsible for oversight of offshore oil production," CAP will declare in an article to be posted on its Web site Tuesday morning. "President Obama should now ensure complete scrutiny of the explosion and its aftermath by appointing an independent commission to assess the causes and damages and make recommendations to prevent future tragedies."

The full text of the CAP article follows:

"The BP disaster is unprecedented in the United States. We cannot predict the full scope of public health, economic, or environmental damages until BP is able to halt the flood of oil. But the horrible environmental calamity has claimed 11 lives, and released millions of gallons of oil. The best-case scenario at this point is that oil will continue to flood from the ocean floor for another week until BP is able to cap the well. If that effort fails, it could be several months before BP is able to drill another well to capture the oil currently fouling the Gulf Coast waters.

The federal government can look to past administrations for guidance in understanding the causes of this devastating situation, and measures to minimize future occurrences.. Presidents Carter and Reagan --after the Three Mile Island near-nuclear meltdown and the Challenger Space Shuttle explosion, respectively--appointed independent commissions of high profile public officials and experts to thoroughly investigate the causes of these events and make recommendations to prevent future tragedies. President Obama should follow their lead by appointing an independent commission to completely examine the causes of the BP disaster and offer guidance for how we can make sure it never happens again.

President Obama asked Secretary of the Interior Ken Salazar after the initial explosion to "conduct a thorough review of this incident and report back to me in 30 days." The Departments of Interior and Homeland Security agreed to conduct a join investigation, with the Interior Department's Minerals Management Service and the U.S. Coast Guard sharing the lead for this evaluation.

This is an important start, but it is not a complete response to a disaster of this colossal magnitude. Any investigation must focus not only on BP, but also on the performance of federal and state agencies responsible for oversight of offshore oil production.

One of the charges of the President's Commission on the Accident at Three Mile Island, for instance, was to evaluate the Nuclear Regulatory Commission's licensing, inspection, operation, and enforcement procedures as applied to this facility since the NRC could not undertake a truly objective review of its own procedures.

The Presidential Commission on the Space Shuttle Challenger Accident was similarly able to review NASA's management structure and procedures and more objectively asses its contribution to the accident. Both independent commissions issued findings that were critical of the agencies' performances and recommendations for management changes.

An independent commission is particularly necessary since the Minerals Management Service was scandal ridden during the Bush administration. Internal investigations, as reported by the New York Times, found "a dysfunctional organization that has been riddled with conflicts of interest, unprofessional behavior and a free-for-all atmosphere for much of the Bush administration's watch.". The Obama Administration has had only sixteen months to reform this agency. It is simply to much to ask it to assess its own performance.

An independent commission investigating the BP disaster should have subpoena power and conduct public hearings. The TMI and NASA commissions had six months and four months respectively to conduct their investigation and issue their reports. The BP disaster commission should similarly also have a limited period of time and the authority to conduct a thorough review.

The Obama administration swiftly responded to the BP disaster from day one and mobilized the U.S. government's resources to attempt to minimize the harm from this unprecedented event on the health, economy, and environment of the Gulf Coast. President Obama should now ensure complete scrutiny of the explosion and its aftermath by appointing an independent commission to assess the causes and damages and make recommendations to prevent future tragedies."


Juliet Eilperin

 |  May 4, 2010; 6:15 AM ET Save & Share:  Send E-mail   Facebook   Twitter   Digg   Yahoo Buzz   StumbleUpon   Technorati  
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The BP Deepwater Horizon oil platform blowout in the Gulf of Mexico has three impacts. It was a local human tragedy for friends and families of the eleven killed workers. It will also have real regional, but temporary, negative ecological and commercial fisheries impacts. And, the spill will chronically damage the image and political influence of corporate petroleum interests – even though BP was a significant funder of Obama’s election. The top recipient of BP-related donations during the 2008 presidential election was Barack Obama, who collected $71,000, according to the nonpartisan Center for Responsive Politics. What the BP blowout was certainly not, is a proper justification for the Obama Administration to suspend their recently-authorized expansion of offshore oil explorations in the Gulf of Mexico, Atlantic Seaboard, Arctic and Pacific Coasts. Oil and gas products supply about 60% of America’s energy needs. And, they represent 7% of our gross domestic product (GDP).

Today’s U.S. Interior Secretary Salazar’s suspension of oil explorations is the daily political posturing of an administration that is in chaos, and desperate to maintain and expand power over all branches of U.S. Government. They fear an expected fall off-year congressional election blowout of Democrats.

Neither government nor environmentalists has ever produced a single drop of oil. Oil and gas will continue to fuel our prosperity through the 21st century. Political progressives exhibit a perverse pattern of dividing and exploiting Americans into voting blocks by race, labor class, gender identity and religion, including environmentalism.

Posted by: PAULTAYLOREXAMINER | May 8, 2010 10:56 AM
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Let's not forget to investigate the Congress and their lack of regulating the oil industry tightly. Let's see were the money talked. We want the full story. Not just the mechanical part.

Obama needs to be investigated too for his pushing offshore drilling without adequate safeguards. The guy is turning into a real dimwit!

Posted by: Maddogg | May 5, 2010 9:46 PM
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It's a shame that all the major "news" outlets are bought-and-paid-for mouthpieces of the same Wall Street corporations that also own the oil corps. It is about as easy to get a shred of truth about what is happening in the Gulf, right now, as it was to get the facts after 09/11.

BP, aided by the US govt, is hitting this slick with oil dispersants; which has the environmental-friendly effect of causing the oil to form into droplets and fall below the water's surface. Nothing more friendly to the marine habitat than oil in the water in large quantities, so it makes perfect sense to hide the oil just below the surface, where it can't be skimmed or burned... or is this just about hiding the size of the slick from aerial photos?

A professor at FSU did the math on April 28th before they could hide all the oil and calculated the oil entering the gulf at roughly 1 1/4 million gallons per day.
Which means we have already surpassed the Exxon Valdez spill, and if the increased pressure from this capping of the riser pipe ruptures the tear at the first bend, five feet above the BOP ... and BP tells us to expect the tear to widen ... good luck getting that dome to stay over top of the massive psi kicking out the tear in the pipe.

I look forward to the media cover up as the keystone cops in Wash DC and the three stooges on site continue to work at stopping this leak. The only thing you can be sure of, is that no matter how bad they end up making the leak, they will hit it all with dispersants to hide it under the surface... then we wait for the inevitable.

Posted by: daysman | May 5, 2010 9:05 PM
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It certainly didn't take long for the industry shills and trolls to come out and play on this blog.

It would appear that only Chrisbrown12 was capable of correctly identifying that "The problem is simple enough: Greed....".

To which I would add an complete lack of responsible behavior by the government, and the many companies involved in this all too predictable fiasco.

Even assuming the authors best case scenario of an open and honest investigation into the root causes of this disaster, IMHO it will do little to change the future behavior of oil companies.

Or more importantly even begin to mitigate the damage wrought.

As the troll awgsceptic99 so aptly put it when you have the foxes in charge of the hen house, should you reasonably expect any other result?

Make no mistake that this is nothing less than a slowly unfolding train wreck of an ecological disaster that will haunt the US and given enough time the worlds fisheries for decades to come.

From my perspective the only open question is just how large will this spill become before the wells can be capped, and how long will it take to clean up even a fraction of this mess?

Posted by: frisbeejon | May 5, 2010 7:00 PM
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And your source of "truth" about MMS is an article in the New York Times. Did Paul Krugman write it? I suspect that your opinion was tainted by the typically poor journalism of the NYT.

Posted by: snorbertzangox | May 5, 2010 3:36 PM
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AGWsceptic99 wrote:
"Let's put the foxes in charge of chicken house safety and just hope that they have the best interests of the chickens at heart."



That's exactly what caused this mess in the first place. George W. Bush put a bunch of his greedy Big Oil executive buddies in charge of regulating themselves and protecting the environment. Obviously they failed miserably at both.

Frankly, I'm surprised they didn't appoint bunch of crack-heads to run the DEA!

Posted by: Freestinker | May 5, 2010 12:05 PM
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Snorbert, your comment is full of erroneous statements and shows an ignorance about the facts re MMS, and the extent of the corruption that was exposed there near the end of the Bush administration.

AGWSCEPTIC, you as well have minimized the problems and devastation that is and will continue to occur from this spill. You lumped every scientist together. That is totally irrational. If one member of your family is a criminal, Mr. AG, does that make everyone including you a criminal? Gheesh!

But that aside.

Yes, an independent commission should be appointed because the three different corporations involved in this oil spill have their own interests at heart, and same for the MMS. Independent investigators could hopefully uncover the exact problems that caused the tragedy and prevent another one.

Posted by: baileywick | May 5, 2010 11:07 AM
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Who would be a good independent body to look at the multiple failures that led up to this oil spill? Not BP who have tried to play down the problems from day one. Not the Deep Water Horizon folks who obviously didn't put the right safe-guards in place with the hope that their inadequate safety measures would suffice. Not Cameron who WSJ informs us designed the ram-cut off system that failed to work.
And definitely not Haliburton, who poured the cement and may have inadvertently caused the blow-out.

The problem is simple enough: Greed and companies in the business of closing one eye and winging it.

The good news today is that one leak is "under control." Let's hope that this gusher can be capped before more damage is done to the Gulf region. The lesson to be learned is not to skimp on safety and not to think that any old technology will do.

A moratorium on deep water drilling is needed and not just in the Gulf.

CB in Hamburg

Posted by: chrisbrown12 | May 5, 2010 11:02 AM
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is any appointed commission really "independent?"

anointed is more like it.

Posted by: forestbloggod | May 5, 2010 3:25 AM
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The environmental calamity has not claimed any lives; the explosion claimed 11 lives. The environmental calamity has not even occurred yet and may not occur. It sounds as though CAP is looking forward with keen anticipation to an environmental calamity. I hope that they do not get their wish.

The last similar event occurred near Los Angeles in 1969. Did anyone commission a committee to investigate that one? By the way, 1969 was 41 years ago. The oil industry investigated the causes of that spill and apparently developed reasonably good procedures and processes to control future events. It seems that we did not need “independent commissions of high profile public officials and experts” then. Why do we need them now?

Why do we need to have a report in”30 days”?? Why not use whatever amount of time is necessary to conduct a thorough investigation and prepare a well-thought-out report? Are we hoping that the commission will report some things that will help the Democrats come November? Or is this merely a ploy to further delay our development of our own energy resources? I think both. I also think that the CAP has revealed the depths of their cynicism.

The unwarranted slander of the Minerals Management Service merely on the basis of the New York Times having decided that it did not like the way that the Service managed during the last administration is fatuously disingenuous. The Obama administration has had only 16 months to turn the Service into the kind of meddling and burdensome agency that Democrats seem to love. Such a shame.

Posted by: snorbertzangox | May 4, 2010 3:59 PM
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Gee whiz. You spill some oil in the Gulf and impact the lives of a few thousand fishermen, sailors, and beach goers and right away we need an independent review.

The IPCC climate review is used as a basis to completely reorganize the production of electricity, the way we power our cars, trucks, and industrial infrastructure. The people involved get caught out in conspiracies to withhold data from independent researchers, suppress dissenting points of view, financial conflicts of interest and probably a lot more than hasn't surfaced yet.

So the Post is just fine appointing review boards comprised of people with financial interests in the outcome, and previously publicized advocacy of CAGW positions.

The IPCC and its supporters are recommending actions that impact most of the people on the globe. The poorest people will be impacted the most because what is proposed will drastically increase the cost of basics like food and electricity and motor fuel.

But we don't need an independent review because we all trust the same scientists whose misbehavior was exposed by their own personal emails. The Post focused on the 'theft' of thee emails, but none of the participants disagreed that they were genuine.

Let's put the foxes in charge of chicken house safety and just hope that they have the best interests of the chickens at heart.

Posted by: AGWsceptic99 | May 4, 2010 10:25 AM
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