May 22nd, 2010
10:31 AM ET
4 years ago

Obama explains Gulf oil spill commission


Washington (CNN) - President Obama used his weekly Internet and radio address to explain his decision to create a bipartisan commission charged with investigating the oil spill caused by the explosion of the Deepwater Horizon oil rig in the Gulf of Mexico.

The president ended his address with the following:

"One of the reasons I ran for President was to put America on the path to energy independence, and I have not wavered from that commitment. To achieve that goal, we must pursue clean energy and energy efficiency, and we’ve taken significant steps to do so. And we must also pursue domestic sources of oil and gas. Because it represents 30 percent of our oil production, the Gulf of Mexico can play an important part in securing our energy future. But we can only pursue offshore oil drilling if we have assurances that a disaster like the BP oil spill will not happen again. This Commission will, I hope, help provide those assurances so we can continue to seek a secure energy future for the United States of America."

(Read Obama's full remarks after the jump)

Remarks of President Barack Obama
Saturday, May 22, 2010
Weekly Address
Washington, DC

One month ago this week, BP’s Deepwater Horizon drilling rig exploded off Louisiana’s coast, killing 11 people and rupturing an underwater pipe. The resulting oil spill has not only dealt an economic blow to Americans across the Gulf Coast, it also represents an environmental disaster.

In response, we are drawing on America’s best minds and using the world’s best technology to stop the leak. We’ve deployed over 1,100 vessels, about 24,000 personnel, and more than 2 million total feet of boom to help contain it. And we’re doing all we can to assist struggling fishermen, and the small businesses and communities that depend on them.

Folks on the Gulf Coast – and across America – are rightly demanding swift action to clean up BP’s mess and end this ordeal. But they’re also demanding to know how this happened in the first place, and how we can make sure it never happens again. That’s what I’d like to spend a few minutes talking with you about.

First and foremost, what led to this disaster was a breakdown of responsibility on the part of BP and perhaps others, including Transocean and Halliburton. And we will continue to hold the relevant companies accountable not only for being forthcoming and transparent about the facts surrounding the leak, but for shutting it down, repairing the damage it does, and repaying Americans who’ve suffered a financial loss.

But even as we continue to hold BP accountable, we also need to hold Washington accountable. Now, this catastrophe is unprecedented in its nature, and it presents a host of new challenges we are working to address. But the question is what lessons we can learn from this disaster to make sure it never happens again.

If the laws on our books are inadequate to prevent such an oil spill, or if we didn’t enforce those laws – I want to know it. I want to know what worked and what didn’t work in our response to the disaster, and where oversight of the oil and gas industry broke down. We know, for example, that a cozy relationship between oil and gas companies and agencies that regulate them has long been a source of concern.

Secretary of the Interior Ken Salazar has taken steps to address this problem; steps that build on reforms he has been implementing since he took office. But we need to do a lot more to protect the health and safety of our people; to safeguard the quality of our air and water; and to preserve the natural beauty and bounty of America.

In recent weeks, we’ve taken a number of immediate measures to prevent another spill. We’ve ordered inspections of all deepwater operations in the Gulf of Mexico. We’ve announced that no permits for drilling new wells will go forward until the 30-day safety and environmental review I requested is complete. And I’ve called on Congress to pass a bill that would provide critical funds and tools to respond to this spill and better prepare us to confront any future spills.

But we also need to take a comprehensive look at how the oil and gas industry operates and how we regulate them. That is why, on Friday, I signed an executive order establishing the National Commission on the BP Deepwater Horizon Oil Spill and Offshore Drilling. While there are a number of ongoing investigations, including an independent review by the National Academy of Engineering, the purpose of this Commission is to consider both the root causes of the disaster and offer options on what safety and environmental precautions we need to take to prevent a similar disaster from happening again. This Commission, I’d note, is similar to one proposed by Congresswoman Capps and Senator Whitehouse.

I’ve asked Democrat Bob Graham and Republican Bill Reilly to co-chair this Commission. Bob served two terms as Florida’s governor, and represented Florida as a United States Senator for almost two decades. During that time, he earned a reputation as a champion of the environment, leading the most extensive environmental protection effort in the state’s history.

Bill Reilly is chairman emeritus of the board of the World Wildlife Fund, and he is also deeply knowledgeable about the oil and gas industry. During the presidency of George H.W. Bush, Bill was Administrator of the Environmental Protection Agency, and his tenure encompassed the Exxon Valdez disaster.

I can’t think of two people who will bring greater experience or better judgment to the task at hand. In the days to come, I’ll appoint 5 other distinguished Americans – including scientists, engineers, and environmental advocates – to join them on the Commission. And I’m directing them to report back in 6 months with recommendations on how we can prevent – and mitigate the impact of – any future spills that result from offshore drilling.

One of the reasons I ran for President was to put America on the path to energy independence, and I have not wavered from that commitment. To achieve that goal, we must pursue clean energy and energy efficiency, and we’ve taken significant steps to do so. And we must also pursue domestic sources of oil and gas. Because it represents 30 percent of our oil production, the Gulf of Mexico can play an important part in securing our energy future. But we can only pursue offshore oil drilling if we have assurances that a disaster like the BP oil spill will not happen again. This Commission will, I hope, help provide those assurances so we can continue to seek a secure energy future for the United States of America.

Thanks so much.


Filed under: Energy • President Obama
soundoff (27 Responses)
  1. ib

    The gov. has done nothing to help or order BP to do something to stop the oil leak because Obama wants to use this to promote his so called green agenda. Disgusting!!!!!!!!!!!

    May 22, 2010 10:38 am at 10:38 am |
  2. Gordon Shumway

    There is enough gas leaking out of the White House and Congress to satisfy our needs for years to come.....................unfortunately!

    May 22, 2010 11:07 am at 11:07 am |
  3. GI Joe

    BP doesn't sell that oil to us cheap – they put it on the world market and sell to China or whomever bids highest. AND it's only a very small percentage. Our waters and sea life are more important.

    Get away from spill,baby,spill, and put ALL our resources into alternate energy.

    May 22, 2010 11:15 am at 11:15 am |
  4. Dean

    GI Joe – If the tree huggers would let us drill on land we would not have oil spills.

    May 22, 2010 11:20 am at 11:20 am |
  5. NC

    We need to be more energy independent......oil, natural gas, coal, wind, solar, and nuclear......we Americans can do it, we just have to get around all of those people who want us to be dependent on other countries.......i don't know about you, but I would feel so much more secure knowing that we were using our own resources and not another countries......

    May 22, 2010 11:51 am at 11:51 am |
  6. Karo77

    ib is right–Obama loves the oil spill–and is doing NADA to help–just bashing the hard-working people struggling to fix the spill–watch him try to take credit when it is successfully contained.....

    May 22, 2010 11:52 am at 11:52 am |
  7. Jerry

    I am so happy Obama has time to set up another BiPartisan group to investigate the spill. How about clean it up first and then set up the group!

    May 22, 2010 11:58 am at 11:58 am |
  8. LaChatte

    Wouldn't it be nice if Obama would make what comes out of one side of his mouth agree with what comes out of the other side?

    May 22, 2010 12:03 pm at 12:03 pm |
  9. JIM El Paso Tx

    Instead of having another study why the hell don't he send help to the gulf coast. Anymore BS we don't need!

    May 22, 2010 12:07 pm at 12:07 pm |
  10. Professor

    The treehuggers who write in these columns amuse me. Fact is that engineering technology always comes with risk. What do they want? For us to give up our most valuable asset today which is our technology know how. Bash BP and bash Big Oil all you want, but you should know that a lot of smarter people than you work for these companies and are doing a hell of a lot more than you ti fix the problem rather than whine about BP and Big Oil. For once I have some sympathy with the republicans who , for once, have not jumped on the blame game wagon. By the way, many oil tankers were routinely sunk by u boats during the second world war off our coasts and around the UK. Many oil spills came ashore that were more than has currently hit the coast here. The world didn't fall apart. Biggest environmental disaster my ass. They said that about Kuwait too. Nobody praised Wild Well company for "saving the world" then. As for the lawyers who are flocking to the gulf to make their ill gotten gain, they are part of the blame for our decline in values. I do feel very sorry for people who have been affected by this like the fishermen, but they will be compensated and will thrive another day. Focus should be how can we help, what are the lessons learned?, how can we prevent this from happening again? Simply blaming BP and big oil is the the voice of the halfwit.

    May 22, 2010 12:41 pm at 12:41 pm |
  11. Talk is Cheap

    We don't need assurances that a spill like this one won't occur ... we need to be convinced that it won't occur. Convinced not with words, or fake claims of integrity by oil executives and lawyers but rather be convinced by FACTS, Figures, Engineering Calculations, Best in Class Contingency Plans, Corrective action Equipment READILY available IN ADVANCE of any accident.

    May 22, 2010 12:54 pm at 12:54 pm |
  12. Claudia, Houston, Tx

    BP pays it's CEO's millions, for what. There is not one BP CEO with knowledge of how to cleanup a mess like this but they sure know how to collect a pay check. You and I would be fired even if we weren't CEO's.

    May 22, 2010 12:56 pm at 12:56 pm |
  13. TOTUS 4 PRESIDENT

    Obama also wants to hold some oil sessions with Vera Baker, who is Barack's special relations czar...

    May 22, 2010 01:00 pm at 1:00 pm |
  14. Gusher McGee

    It is amazing that in the middle of all this...the National Association of Auto Dealers is suing the government to stop upcoming regulations that require autos to burn less gas, use less oil, and get better gas mileage!!

    So on one hand, while we all struggle with energy independence and they try to tell all of us consumers to 'go green...it's easy!'.....there are still greedy economic interests only concerned about making money and thumbing their noses at the current evergy and oil crises.

    Obama is doing an admirable job reacting to this spill...MUCH better than Bush's indifference to New Orleans.

    Itis interesting that all complainers seem to have no alternate plans of their own......it is shortsighted to think that if we 'just drill somewhere else'!! (Like the Artic Wildlife Refuge...) that all our problems are solved.

    Companies don't want to go into alternative energy because they have no incentives to go away from all their windfall profits to help the nation, the economy, and ultimately the earth. This is why self regulation has never worked and the government, unfortunately, has to step in to stop these companies.

    Ultimately, the way of life called 'comsume just to generate a cycle of profit, consume until what you are consuming is gone.....', may become the biggest issue this country has ever faced. Corporate profits are running, and ruining, this nation.

    May 22, 2010 01:09 pm at 1:09 pm |
  15. THE OIL SPILL..

    Whenever the Governments anywhere don't know or are not willing to find solutions..they appoint "COMMISSIONS" and "HOPE" the problem will disappear on its own....There is no hope without action...........!!!!!

    May 22, 2010 01:13 pm at 1:13 pm |
  16. Brenda

    If Obama would not have received millions from BP and other oil companies--legislation/steps would have been put in place to prevent this tragedy before it happened.

    Obama took the millions of dollars in donations-–more than any other person in history-–to look the other way and let the oil companies do whatever they wanted.

    May 22, 2010 01:19 pm at 1:19 pm |
  17. DWB

    @ib
    The gov. has done nothing to help or order BP to do something to stop the oil leak because Obama wants to use this to promote his so called green agenda. Disgusting!!!!!!!!!!!

    I am hoping you are not part of the group advocating smaller government–less spending–less taxes If you are you just contridicted yourself requesting the government do more to help BP. Where do you think the funds will come from?

    May 22, 2010 01:35 pm at 1:35 pm |
  18. Bill in CA.

    Let's try this again...clean up the mess...you can point fingers later!!!

    May 22, 2010 01:54 pm at 1:54 pm |
  19. Bill in CA.

    Well said Gordon....

    May 22, 2010 01:55 pm at 1:55 pm |
  20. Willa-PA

    " If the tree huggers would let us drill on land we would not have oil spills."

    Drilling on land would unbalance the eco system for sure because land has to be uprouted. There is nothing wrong with drilling in the oceans when there are regulations and safety measures in place so that the disaster like the Gulf spill does not happen. Greedy corporations, stockholders and politicians made this oil spill happen. Unfortunately regulations are necessary to keep them inline and whatever one's ideology or party line is, it is necessary, not an ideology.

    May 22, 2010 02:01 pm at 2:01 pm |
  21. Gerry NH

    The US is doing everything they can do. They are forming another commission.

    May 22, 2010 02:03 pm at 2:03 pm |
  22. DorisV

    The only way to prevent this from happening again is to stop all deepwater drilling. No amount of regulation is ever going to fix this. We need to solve our problems with clean energy sources and jobs. We need to stop our fossil fuel dependence. If we can send men to space, we certainly should have the brain power to do this also.

    May 22, 2010 02:12 pm at 2:12 pm |
  23. Esteban

    What an absolutely great idea! Let's form a commission. That'll stop that old oil spill. It's too bad BP doesn't have a plug big enough to stop the spillage coming out of Obamba's mouth all the time.

    May 22, 2010 03:05 pm at 3:05 pm |
  24. Marilyn

    Just another useless commission to make people think something is actually being accomplished.

    May 22, 2010 03:28 pm at 3:28 pm |
  25. Ben S. Pauls

    Has anyone researched to understand just what the US government can do off-shore? Can the US government require BP to do anything other than clean up, since the leak happened so far from the US coast?

    May 22, 2010 03:32 pm at 3:32 pm |
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