May 22nd, 2010
11:48 AM ET
13 years ago

Obama announces oil spill commission


After this weekend's official formation, the commission will have six months to issue a report with recommendations on how to prevent spills from offshore drilling. (Photo Credit: Getty Images)

Washington (CNN) - President Obama has named former Florida Sen. Bob Graham, D-Florida, and former Environmental Protection Agency Administrator William K. Reilly to head a new bipartisan commission tasked with investigating how to prevent future oil spills.

Obama announced the formation of the panel in his weekly radio and Internet address Saturday.

"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," he said in his Saturday address.

The formation of the commission comes as the administration faces a growing chorus of criticism about whether it is putting enough pressure on BP to clean up the massive oil spill in the Gulf of Mexico.

On Friday, for the second straight day, White House Press Secretary Robert Gibbs faced a barrage of questions 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 broke. "I don't know what you think - we're - we're working each and every day. That's why Secretary (Steven) 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."

In announcing the commission Saturday, Obama said of two co-chairs, Graham and Reilly, "I can't think of two people who will bring greater experience of better judgment to the task at hand."

Five other people will soon be selected to serve on the commission. Obama said they would include "scientists, engineers, and environmental advocates." Administration officials have said the other panel members would likely be people outside government because of allegations that leaders at the federal, state and local levels have been too cozy with the oil industry.

After this weekend's official formation, the commission will have six months to issue a report with recommendations on how to prevent spills from offshore drilling.

Before the recent spill, Obama had opened the door to potential expansion of offshore drilling as part of a comprehensive energy reform plan. He has since faced a storm of criticism from fellow Democrats in states like Florida, who now want him to scrap those plans.

Graham hails from 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 as 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 1989-93 and is chairman emeritus of the board of the World Wildlife Fund. His 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 that 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

–CNN's Ed Henry contributed to this report.

Filed under: Energy • Obama administration • Popular Posts • President Obama
soundoff (38 Responses)
  1. jeff

    "On the BP oil leak, why cant they inflate a rubber bladder inline of the pipe line to stop the flow of oil. they could insert it at any point in the pipe line and inflate it to stop the flow and then cap it with concrete. "

    May 22, 2010 02:17 pm at 2:17 pm |
  2. 865155

    Wow !!! TURN IT OFF .....
    The Executives, Government oversite, and Pelosi should be able to plug the leak....
    How is anyone to believe they were able to built this thing, but are not able to repair it..Simple thinking, RIGHT
    Seriously there must be a beginning, middle to cap other than the hole.

    May 22, 2010 02:21 pm at 2:21 pm |
  3. rehabdoc

    Drill a parallel hole near the main pipe, drill maybe 50 feet down... then fill with enough explosives to displace the rock and "pinch" or crack the pipe. Not sure how much you need, but would certainly slow the flow by a lot.

    May 22, 2010 02:33 pm at 2:33 pm |
  4. areyounuts?

    that should clear up this problem–of course if you acted quicker this problem may have been handled–Obama you are a terrible leader–
    can anyone step up to the plate??

    May 22, 2010 02:33 pm at 2:33 pm |
  5. Agnes

    How about this, No Off Shore Drilling period. The last thing we need is another "commission." The knowledge is already out there if you care to find it, just go to your local library Mr Professor President; you are quoted "... 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," he said in his Saturday address.""

    We already have substantial technology to support reliable, environmentally safe, non-toxic, and renewable alternative energy sources, thermal, hydra, solar, ethanol .... the list goes on. Where is the support for these already existing methods. Do we really need a commission to tell us something we already know? What a waste of time and money, the clock is ticking and mother earth is profoundly sufferring.

    May 22, 2010 02:45 pm at 2:45 pm |
  6. samanthaz

    Too little too late, Mr. President. This is beyond a disaster. And, a disaster that us "crazy" environmentally conscious folks knew was going to happen, sooner or later. Offshore drilling should never occur again. Tired of hearing about the dependence on Middle East oil. MOST Of our oil comes from Canada and Mexico. We do not need to drill the oceans....UNLESS you are in bed with the oil companies? Oh, I see....I will not be supporting Obama unless he steps up and is the President he pretended he would be during the campaign. He is no Roosevelt. Roosevelt was bold and courageous and sincerely had the people and what is right in his scope. Roosevelt would already have banned offshore oil drilling...forever, and dared anyone to fight it.

    May 22, 2010 02:48 pm at 2:48 pm |
  7. Lilarose in Bandon, Oregon

    British Petroleum needs to shut down ALL of its wells in the Gulf of Mexico.

    They never had a clue how to handle a disaster like this. They still don't.

    These kinds of accidents can continue over and over, especially as the wells get old.

    Has anyone looked into the possibility that our enemies started the fire?

    May 22, 2010 02:56 pm at 2:56 pm |
  8. gkingii

    Typical governmental response. Pick a committee to talk about it.

    May 22, 2010 03:06 pm at 3:06 pm |
  9. Kaley Trends

    Obama will try to somehow blame the republican governors of the states that have been/probably will be effected physically by this oil spill. The one reason Obama has not tried to help so far is because he wants to do political craziness to bring down the republican governors and keep his nose clean when the fur flies. Obama hates one-half this country, republicans/conservaties. Am I the only one who has noticed that every Gulf Coast state has a republican governor?

    May 22, 2010 03:21 pm at 3:21 pm |
  10. Ralf the Dog

    I don't think anyone but the oil industry has what it take to stop the leek. One role of the government should be to provide support (Things like transportation of equipment and keeping people out of the spill zone).

    The more important role of the government should be in damage mitigation. I think the government and the military would be quite useful in finding ways to clean this stuff up.

    The most important role of the government should be to punish those who were responsible if they broke the law, remove the rights to operate if they were incompetent and to work with industry to develop new operating procedures to make sure this does not happen again. They also need to let industry know that if it does happen again, the solution will involve quite a bit of rope and a drop from a rig.

    May 22, 2010 03:33 pm at 3:33 pm |
  11. geno

    Does anyone have any doubt the way the media would be playing it were George W. Bush in office when the Gulf disaster took place, and continues unabated? "Bush Incompetency!" would be the headlines. Why does Obama get a pass when the Feds have completely mishandled this oil leak disaster? Wasn't it Harry Truman who said, "The buck stops here"? Somehow, the buck never seems to get to the Oval office nowadays.

    May 22, 2010 03:39 pm at 3:39 pm |
  12. Fred

    More eyewash.

    May 22, 2010 03:54 pm at 3:54 pm |
  13. txkboy

    Yet another red tape boondoggle.

    May 22, 2010 03:57 pm at 3:57 pm |
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