Washington (CNN) - President Obama is naming former Sen. Bob Graham, D-Florida, and former administrator of the Environmental Protection Agency William Reilly as the bipartisan co-chairs of a new commission tasked with investigating how to prevent future oil spills, according to two sources familiar with the announcement.
The sources said Obama on Saturday will announce formation of the panel, officially known as the National Commission on the BP Deepwater Horizon Oil Spill and Offshore Drilling, as the administration faces a growing chorus of criticism about whether the administration is putting enough pressure on BP to clean up the massive oil spill in the Gulf region.
For the second straight day on Friday, White House Press Secretary Robert Gibbs faced a barrage of questions from reporters at his daily briefing about why the federal government is not intervening to take over responsibility for the cleanup from BP.
"Again, we are overseeing the response, OK?" Gibbs said just hours before the news about the commission formation broke late Friday. "I don't know what you think - we're - we're working each and every day. That's why Secretary Chu - the Department of Energy - it sounds technical. The Department of Energy doesn't have purview over oil, oil drilling. That's not in their governmental sphere. But Secretary Chu has been down there working through a whole host of ideas, including enhanced imaging to get a better look at a disaster that's 5,000 feet underneath the water.”
Gibbs added: "We have taken every step. We have pushed relentlessly for BP to do what is necessary to contain what is leaking, to deal with both the environmental and the economic impacts of what, as the president said today, is unquestionably a disaster."
Obama had previously signaled that the commission would be created but he is now expected to sign the executive order this weekend to officially set up the panel. In addition to naming Graham and Reilly, sources said five other people will soon be selected to serve on the seven-person commission.
Administration officials say the other panel members are also likely to be people outside government because of allegations that leaders at the federal, state, and local level have been too cozy with the people in the oil industry they are supposed to oversee.
After this weekend's official formation, the commission will then have six months to issue a report with recommendations on how to prevent future spills resulting from offshore drilling. Before the recent spill, Obama had opened the door to potential expansion of off-shore drilling as part of a comprehensive energy reform plan but has since faced a storm of criticism from his fellow Democrats in states like Florida who now want him to scrap those plans.
Graham hails from the state of Florida, which has been under threat from the current spill. He served two terms as governor followed by 18 years in the U.S. Senate. Since retiring from the Senate in January 2005, he has served on several federal panels, including chairman of the Commission on the Prevention of Weapons of Mass Destruction Proliferation and Terrorism.
Reilly served as EPA chief in the administration of President George H.W. Bush from 1989-1993 and is Chairman Emeritus of the Board of the World Wildlife Fund. His impeccable credentials in the environmental community could be important for the commission amid fears within those circles that the Gulf spill will cause unprecedented damage to wildlife and fisheries.
Administration officials have previously said this commission will be modeled after the federal panels that were formed after the Three Mile Island nuclear disaster in 1979 and the Challenger Space Shuttle tragedy in 1986.