(CNN) - The presidential commission tasked with investigating the Gulf oil gusher and making recommendations about the future of offshore drilling will hold its first public meeting Monday.
The National Oil Spill Commission has six months to determine what happened when the Deepwater Horizon oil rig exploded April 20, leading to the worst environmental disaster in U.S. history - and how to prevent something similar from ever happening again.
Committee co-chairman, William K. Reilly, said it was hard to believe that more progress has not been made in responding to oil spills.
In an appearance on CNN’s State of the Union, attorney Kenneth Feinberg said he expected to have his independent compensation program running by the first week of August. Feinberg told CNN Chief Political Correspondent Candy Crowley that his operation will be superimposed on top of the claims process already put in place by BP, which has more than 1,000 people working out of 35 offices in the Gulf Coast region.
“We’ll keep the people who are good. We’ll add people. We’ll accelerate claims. We’ll process the claims as quickly as we can,” Feinberg said. “We’re already prepared to give eligible claimants not one month emergency payments but six months with no obligation, no release required. Just to try and help people in the Gulf.”
Feinberg described the six-month payouts as providing “some degree of additional financial certainty” for the many individuals and businesses facing the economic havoc caused by the disaster. But Feinberg added that claimants can ask for less than six months in compensation if they so choose.
The well-known attorney, who administered the multi-billion-dollar 9/11 victims’ compensation fund and who set salaries for the top executives at banks recently bailed out by the federal government, also provided an overview of how he sees the claims process.
(CNN) - The U.S. Coast Guard and Environmental Protection Agency have issued a directive to BP on how the company should manage recovered oil, contaminated materials and waste recovered in cleanup operations from the oil disaster in the Gulf of Mexico.
Among other requirements, the directive requires the oil giant to give the EPA and state agencies access to any waste storage site and to provide specific plans, waste reports and tracking systems for liquid and solid waste.
"While the states of Louisiana, Alabama, Mississippi and Florida are overseeing BP's waste management activities and conducting inspections, this action today is meant to compliment their activities by providing further oversight and imposing more specific requirements," the Coast Guard said on Thursday. "Under the directive, EPA, in addition to sampling already being done by BP, will begin sampling the waste to help verify that the waste is being properly managed."
Waste sampling to date has been done in compliance with EPA and state regulatory requirements, the Coast Guard said.
Oil sheen is seen Saturday in the waters off Barataria Bay west of Port Sulpher, Louisiana. (Photo Credit: Getty Images)
Washington (CNN) - A BP estimate made after the explosion of the Deepwater Horizon noted that as much as 100,000 barrels per day could leak into the ocean if the blowout preventer and wellhead were removed, a higher worst-case scenario than previously reported.
According to an internal BP document released Sunday by Rep. Edward Markey, D-Massachusetts, BP believed that the worst-case scenario could be as high as 100,000 barrels, or 4.2 million gallons of oil per day.
The figure is the highest yet to surface regarding the leaking oil well. At the disaster's outset, BP claimed the leak was about 1,000 barrels a day, a number it later revised to 5,000 and then much higher. BP told the House Energy and Commerce Committee that the worst-case scenario was 60,000 barrels (2.5 million gallons) a day, lower than what the document states.
The document, submitted in May, maintains the 60,000 barrel estimate, but stipulates that if the "blowout preventer and wellhead are removed and if we have incorrectly modeled the restrictions, the rate could be as high as 100,000 barrels a day."
Markey said the document "raises very troubling questions about what BP knew and when they knew it."
"It is clear that, from the beginning, BP has not been straightforward with the government or the American people about the true size of this spill," said Markey, the chairman of the Energy and Environment Subcommittee in the House Energy and Commerce Committee.
"Considering what is now known about BP's problems with this well prior to the Deepwater Horizon explosion, including cementing issues, leaks in the blowout preventer and gas kicks, BP should have been more honest about the dangerous condition of the well bore," Markey said in a statement.
BP spokesman Robert Wine said the May estimate cited in Markey's document is irrelevant to the current situation because the oil company has no intention of removing the well's blowout preventer.
"The allegation doesn't make sense," Wine told CNN. "Why on earth would we remove the blowout preventer when it's sitting on top of the sea well and providing some control (of the spill)?"
Toby Odone, another spokesman for BP, added that the blowout preventer will be removed only when the well is completely killed.
Updated 5:15 p.m.
"I’m glad President Obama is finally putting this catastrophe at the top of his agenda, but his response has been too slow," Wicker says in the address. "He was slow in listening to state and local leaders, slow in getting skimmers to the Gulf, slow in understanding the seriousness of this crisis, and slow in taking ownership and responsibility for the recovery. Many of his actions have actually taken us in the wrong direction."
Update 5:40 p.m.: Drew Hammill, spokesman for House Speaker Nancy Pelosi, issued the following statement about Sen. Wicker's address:
"While Democrats in Congress are working to ensure that the federal government has the adequate resources to respond to this catastrophe, Republicans in Congress are apologizing to BP and blocking legislation to strengthen the Oil Spill Liability Trust Fund.
"We will continue to push for this legislation and ensure that BP is held responsible for this disaster and taxpayers are protected."
(Read Wicker's full remarks after the jump)
Washington (CNN) - Can the man that President Obama has tapped to formulate a long-term Gulf Coast restoration plan only work part-time on such a monumental effort?
Some environmental groups say no way, and are suggesting that Ray Mabus should give up his current post of Navy secretary to focus on the Gulf full-time. The criticism comes after White House spokesman Robert Gibbs told CNN that Mabus, a former governor of Mississippi, will be splitting his time between the two jobs.
"The president talked to the governor about this, and they both agreed that he had the ability to do both," Gibbs said.
But Cat Lazaroff, communications director at Defenders of Wildlife, told CNN that it will be difficult for Mabus to do both jobs well.
"I think our concern is this is not going to be a part-time job," Lazaroff said. "The recovery is going to take years or decades. And the person in charge needs to spend full-time hours on it."
Another top environmentalist, Fred Krupp, sharply disagreed with Lazaroff and insisted that Mabus will do a fabulous job, even on a part-time basis.
"I think it's a great appointment," said Krupp, president of the Environmental Defense Fund. "If he's in charge, whether it's for all of his time or part of his time, the Gulf is in good hands."
TOPICS: Situation in Gulf of Mexico, offshore oil drilling, actions against BP
Washington (CNN) - Nine in ten Americans say that the situation in the Gulf of Mexico is still out of control, but roughly half say that it is not getting any worse, according to a new national poll.
But will the oil spill get any better?
A CNN/Opinion Research Corporation survey released Friday indicates that about half the public says that the Gulf will eventually recover, with half saying that will never happen.
According to the poll, opposition to increased offshore drilling has grown 10 points since May and is now twice as high as it was in 2008. Fifty-eight percent of those questioned support a six-month moratorium on new drilling in the Gulf and other offshore sites; 68 percent favor increased regulation of the oil industry in this country.
"There is a gender and generation gap on offshore oil drilling - women and younger Americans are less likely to support drilling offshore and more likely to support a moratorium," says CNN Polling Director Keating Holland.
Measures that directly target BP are also popular - 63 percent favor lifting the liability cap on BP and 53 percent would support criminal charges against some BP employees or executives.