Friday, October 8, 2010

Obama’s spill panel will publicly deliberate

US President Barack Obama’s independent oil spill commission has scheduled another meeting for May 13 where it will publicly deliberate on preliminary findings of its investigation of the Apr. 20 Macondo well accident and subsequent massive crude oil spill.

The commission also posted 4 preliminary staff reports online at dealing with decision making in the spill response’s unified command, the use of surface and subsea dispersants, spill response challenges in the Arctic, and the amount and fate of the spilled oil.

White House officials were miffed with an assertion in one of the draft reports that the administration was not aggressive in determining how much oil actually was leaking early on, and that it prematurely reported on Aug. 4 that most of the spilled crude had biodegraded.

“Look, I think it is important to understand that our response attacked the oil spill in an unprecedented way,” Press Secretary Robert Gibbs said during his Oct. 7 daily briefing. “It was the largest environmental disaster that we have ever faced and we attacked it with the largest federal response. We did all that was humanly possible in the most challenging of environments.”

Jane Lubchenco, National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration administrator, sent a letter to the spill commission that same day that worst case scenarios issued early in the response had nothing to do with flow rate calculations, but did inform the Unified Command’s preparations for possible eventualities. “And the worst case scenario was made public,” she added.

Commission members so far have confined themselves to questions and short observations. The meeting in another few days will give them a chance to say much more. It could be interesting.


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