June 1st, 2010
12:07 PM ET
5 years ago

Obama gives six-month deadline to Gulf oil spill commission

President Obama met Tuesday with the two heads of his oil spill commission, former EPA Administration William Reilly (right) and former Sen. Bob Graham, D-Florida (left).
President Obama met Tuesday with the two heads of his oil spill commission, former EPA Administration William Reilly (right) and former Sen. Bob Graham, D-Florida (left).

Washington (CNN) - President Barack Obama said Tuesday he expects a new presidential commission tasked with investigating how to prevent future oil spills to "follow the facts wherever they may lead" and report back to him in six months.

The seven-member panel, headed by former Sen. Bob Graham, D-Florida, and former EPA Administrator William Reilly, will "thoroughly examine the (BP oil) spill and its causes so we never face such a catastrophe again," Obama said at the White House. Graham and Reilly joined the president for the announcement.

"We owe all those who've been harmed, as well as future generations, a full and vigorous accounting of the events that led to what has now become the worst oil spill in U.S. history," Obama said. "Only then can we be assured that deep-water drilling can take place safely. ... Only then can we be confident that we've done what's necessary to prevent history from repeating itself."

Obama, who recently created the commission through an executive order, noted that the panel is authorized to hold public hearings and "request information from government, from not-for-profit organizations, and from experts in the oil and gas industry ... as well as from relevant companies, including BP, Transocean, Halliburton and others."

The president's announcement came in the midst of a new BP operation aimed at lessening the amount of oil gushing from an underwater well off the Louisiana coast, according to BP Managing Director Bob Dudley.

BP workers are attempting to make a series of cuts to part of the wellhead in order to prepare the way for a custom-made cap to be fitted over the gusher.

The administration has been struggling to juggle what many observers see as the conflicting tasks of working with BP to contain the spill while also holding BP accountable for the spill's damage. Obama once again insisted Tuesday that the government "will bring those responsible (for the Gulf oil spill) to justice."

Attorney General Eric Holder is heading to the Gulf Coast Tuesday to survey the spill and meet with state attorneys general and federal prosecutors from Louisiana, Alabama and Mississippi, according to the Justice Department.

Holder said last month that the Justice Department would "ensure that BP is held liable."

Oil has been gushing from the undersea well since April 20 when the Deepwater Horizon oil rig exploded and later sank. Government estimates are that up to 19,000 barrels (798,000 gallons) of oil a day are flowing into the Gulf of Mexico.

Updated: 1:35 p.m.


Filed under: President Obama
soundoff (68 Responses)
  1. Memphis

    Where are the supertankers???? We need to act now!!!!!!!!!

    June 1, 2010 01:29 pm at 1:29 pm |
  2. cybermarine

    This a no-brainer.. Suspend all off-shore drilling located anywhere close to the lower states and open up drilling in the northern Alaska fields. People live here. There are not people living up there.. Let Americans live without the threat of pollution for once. And it will give the animal rights idiots something to do.. Hey! It may even reduce our dependence on Arabian oil....

    June 1, 2010 01:29 pm at 1:29 pm |
  3. dave

    Pres. Obama was in office for less than a month when BP applied for these drilling rights.

    In February 2009, BP filed a 52 page exploration and environmental impact plan for the Macondo well with the Minerals Management Service (MMS), an arm of the United States Department of the Interior that oversees offshore drilling. The plan stated that it was "unlikely that an accidental surface or subsurface oil spill would occur from the proposed activities"[56] In the event an accident did take place the plan stated that due to the well being 48 miles (77 km) from shore and the response capabilities that would be implemented, no significant adverse impacts would be expected.[56] The Department of the Interior exempted BP's Gulf of Mexico drilling operation from a detailed environmental impact study after concluding that a massive oil spill was unlikely.[57][58]

    The BP wellhead had been fitted with a blowout preventer (BOP), but it was not fitted with remote-control or acoustically-activated triggers for use in case of an emergency requiring a platform to be evacuated. It did have a dead man's switch designed to automatically cut the pipe and seal the well if communication from the platform is lost, but it was unknown whether the switch activated.[59] Regulators in both Norway and Brazil generally require acoustically-activated triggers on all offshore platforms, but when the Minerals Management Service considered requiring the remote device, a report commissioned by the agency as well as drilling companies questioned its cost and effectiveness.[59] In 2003, the agency determined that the device would not be required because drilling rigs had other back-up systems to cut off a well.[59][60]

    June 1, 2010 01:31 pm at 1:31 pm |
  4. Fed Up

    Six months to come up with a report to see if BP did anything illegal? I wonder if it will take that long for us to find out if Obama did anything illegal. Nope, probably longer.

    June 1, 2010 01:31 pm at 1:31 pm |
  5. Steve- Illinois

    What happens when the task force finds out there were plenty of regulations in place to prevent this? That the main problem stems from Government emp[loyees not doing their jobs? Then what happens? Obama surely can't make the "big bad wolf" out to be government employees! It just has to be one of those evil corporations!

    June 1, 2010 01:32 pm at 1:32 pm |
  6. George Guadiane - Austerlitz, NY

    Prevention is simple, CRIMINALIZE THE ACT!
    If the law reads something like:
    Any oil spill resulting from improper or failed equipment, installation of said equipment and/or upkeep of said equipment will constitute a criminal act, subject to the following:
    Forfeiture of ALL ASSETS by every officer of the company, INCLUDING but not limited to homes, cars, stocks, bonds and any other investments, antiques, collectibles and/or personal trinkets of said officers, their spouses and children.
    Incarceration of ALL COMPANY OFFICERS, until such time as their is a complete cleanup and recovery from the consequences of the original crime.
    If we do those two things, in an unequivocal way, there will never be another spill.

    June 1, 2010 01:33 pm at 1:33 pm |
  7. REG in AZ

    It would be a real shame for things to be affected just by people's emotions and to have it result in returning to 'more of the same' that has already cost us so much. There is no doubt that Obama and the Democrats are not without fault and that their actions really need some conscientious tempering ... but even there, as well as for the current drastic problems, a great deal of the blame needs to be aimed at the Republicans who put their political ambitions above all else and who arrogantly and stubbornly just fault and obstruct everything, belligerently refusing to offer any bipartisan cooperation of any kind. They depend on scare tactics and emotional appeals to biases, prejudices and self-interests to manipulate public opinion and to focus on benefit only for Special Interests and the select few, their strong overt and covert supporters. This country has become too polarized behind extreme elements and if that now results in bouncing back to 'more of the same', then we can just expect to see a continuation of the catastrophe conducted by Bush-Cheney. We need more cooperation from both sides of the isle, even a centrist aligned third party, with representatives voting their individual consciences instead of always blindly supporting their party leaders political positions, otherwise the polarized extremist's push-pull will just continue to tear everything apart.

    June 1, 2010 01:33 pm at 1:33 pm |
  8. boocat

    Like my dear departed mother used to say 'It's like closing the barn door after the horse gets out."

    June 1, 2010 01:35 pm at 1:35 pm |
  9. Uncle Sam

    Is Obama keeping track of all his commissions and czars deadlines on his Blackberry? Hes great at barking out orders and conducting summits with future deadlines, but we never hear from them again. What happened to Decembers job summit?

    June 1, 2010 01:38 pm at 1:38 pm |
  10. Susan

    This is the legacy of eight years of deregulation. Now we see what the oil companies, mining companies and the financial sector will do when no one keeps an eye on them.

    June 1, 2010 01:40 pm at 1:40 pm |
  11. Wisconsinite - Conservatives want to take their country back. Progressives want to move their country forward.

    I know a really good way to prevent future oil spills and it won't take a commission to come up with it. Stop off-shore drilling! Develop clean energy alternatives which will create clean energy jobs!

    June 1, 2010 01:40 pm at 1:40 pm |
  12. Just Asking

    Forget the commission. In six months the Gulf of Mexico will cease to exist as a body of water and an ecosystem. Summon all of the experts on this issue to Washington, immediately, for an emergency meeting and lock the door until you have an answer or answers on how to stop this mess. Then you can sort out the culprits and assess damages.

    June 1, 2010 01:46 pm at 1:46 pm |
  13. Ken Brown

    There's another commission that's going to report in approximately six months. This commission is the voters of America...and we're going to get rid of the business as usual politicians...both repubs and dems.

    It's time to retire these bad operators that have left us with a disfunctional government. I say we take their pensions too.

    Zero accountability = zero pension.

    June 1, 2010 01:47 pm at 1:47 pm |
  14. Claudia, Houston, Tx

    This must be investigate because no one knows for sure it was an accident, we're all just assuming.

    June 1, 2010 01:50 pm at 1:50 pm |
  15. Ken in Pisgah Forest

    This spill should be called the "Dick Cheney Memorial Drill Baby Drill Spill" because he was the one who said remote devices are no longer needed and the lack of one for the BOP lead to this disaster.

    Anyone who thinks less regulation is a good thing needs to have his or her head examined. Companies will always take shortcuts in the name of profits wherever they can. Not having a remote shutoff was just another example of a cost-savings shortcut.

    As for me, I say "Regulate, baby, regulate!" Do not trust the guys that lead the multi-national corporations. They are a bunch of con artists who don't care about the rest of us.

    June 1, 2010 01:50 pm at 1:50 pm |
  16. blablablah

    Forget about the commission! Hey "Fearless Leader" How about rolling up your sleeves and actually getting some work done to get this leak stopped and oil cleaned up before you completely destroy Luisiana and Florida's environment for years to come!! Have you no clue? – oh wait...you don't!

    June 1, 2010 01:56 pm at 1:56 pm |
  17. mj

    Another committe to sit around and get paid for nothing. Now the White House is hinting that they want to take over BP. Does this not scare you? Just what is O trying to prove? Government has no clue how to run a business, yet they are taking over American companies as fast as they can. Socialism – you can bet on it!

    June 1, 2010 01:56 pm at 1:56 pm |
  18. Ken in Pisgah Forest

    This is BP's mess and if they can't clean it up on their own, they need to contract with those who can, even contracting with the Coast Guard and Navy as well as NOAA. They shouldn't be given a free ride to get the clean up and repair work done by the taxpayers.

    June 1, 2010 01:56 pm at 1:56 pm |
  19. Thomas

    Investigating is good. Getting the facts is good. Would we rather President Obama pull a "bush jr" and make decisions without the facts?

    June 1, 2010 01:59 pm at 1:59 pm |
  20. No More Dems

    This guy is so tricky and sneaky – This happended on his watch and he didn't do anything until just recently and what he's done is nothing more than push the blame rather than focus on stopping this leak. Can't wait till November – The dems are going to pay!!

    June 1, 2010 02:00 pm at 2:00 pm |
  21. Naqib

    Does that count the first 47 days when he's done nothing?
    Or does the clock start now?

    Least he could do after cashing all those big oil campaign checks?

    Change you can believe in... but not for 180 more days

    June 1, 2010 02:07 pm at 2:07 pm |
  22. ATL Guy

    I want to see Dick Cheney invoke his Fifth Amendment right against self incrimination.

    June 1, 2010 02:10 pm at 2:10 pm |
  23. Really?

    "The decision by the department's Minerals Management Service (MMS) to give BP's lease at Deepwater Horizon a "categorical exclusion" from the National Environmental Policy Act (NEPA) on April 6, 2009 - and BP's lobbying efforts just 11 days before the explosion to expand those exemptions - show that neither federal regulators nor the company anticipated an accident of the scale of the one unfolding in the gulf. ...
    The decision by the department's Minerals Management Service (MMS) to give BP's lease at Deepwater Horizon a "categorical exclusion" from the National Environmental Policy Act (NEPA) on April 6, 2009 - and BP's lobbying efforts just 11 days before the explosion to expand those exemptions - show that neither federal regulators nor the company anticipated an accident of the scale of the one unfolding in the gulf. "

    Let's see if this "commission" bring any of this to light.

    One has to wonder....Could it be that BP highest campaign contributions went to Obama which enabled such preferential treatment of BP?

    June 1, 2010 02:14 pm at 2:14 pm |
  24. Padraig

    Winnie interesting observation, have you considered that this is already in place. Don't you think our President should be protecting our borders right now which includes disasters like this. I am sure that if someone in the current administration would do some research they will find a plan is already in place. Perhaps one by then Vice President Gore.

    He is pushing six-months to detract and point interest in other areas. While they stumble the leak continues to pour out oil and it is invading our waterways, shores, and other natrual resources.

    June 1, 2010 02:15 pm at 2:15 pm |
  25. Lee Gee

    Look at what no regulations of corporations, a smaller government, privitization and globilization, and not heeding the scientific evidence for climate change will get you. The people of Katrina has not been made whole and that was a natural diaster made worst because no money was invested in strengthening the levees and the upkeep of the infrastructure. BP oil spill is a man-made diaster due to a cry for no regulations, a smaller government and drill baby drill. Now, people who did not vote for the Pres. Obama; who vilify and mock him and his family 24/7 want him to walk on water for them and spend his vacation time with them. Why and for what? I think that the “God” you say you worship is trying to tell you “Red States” something. There is justice in the heavens. Are you listening?

    June 1, 2010 02:15 pm at 2:15 pm |
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