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. Stymie

    This administration is one big disaster.

    May 22, 2010 11:58 am at 11:58 am |
  2. TTommy

    Great. Let's form a commission. A work group. A think tank. In the meantime. thousands of barrels a day are spilling into the Gulf. Is that all Obama can do ... form committees? He needs to be down on the coast talking to BP and the other experts, getting actively involved in this. Talk to people. Try new ideas. Listen to the experts. Show some leadership.

    May 22, 2010 11:59 am at 11:59 am |
  3. Tom

    May God have mercy on each one of us !

    May 22, 2010 12:03 pm at 12:03 pm |
  4. Jimmy

    I love it. Typical politician. Did nothing when the oil spill first happened and now instead of working on trying to clean up the problem as hard as possible we are appointing a commission to look into the explosion. What a typical coward politician.

    May 22, 2010 12:08 pm at 12:08 pm |
  5. Sorensen

    Maybe it is time to start looking at BP's total asset value and future
    market cap.
    There is no way BP can survive this. The total damages, law suits,
    loss of brand equity, etc. etc. will bankrupt them.
    Further the top management is bound to get fired with the incompetant
    board, the second line management will want to get the hell out of
    there, and the morale in the rest of the shop will tank.
    The total bill will certainly exceed hundreds of BILLIONS, so somebody better start getting some money out of them before it is too
    Exxon, Chevron, etc. might be interested in the fire-sale.

    May 22, 2010 12:17 pm at 12:17 pm |
  6. Willie

    Mr President,

    I respectfully ask you to please hold off on yet another commission for yet another problem our country is facing. Instead, get a LEADER down to the gulf NOW, force all control of all operations out of the hands of private companies and put it into this fully qualified individual's hands and just get the job done: seal the leak, clean up the spill, help the local industries impacted. THEN conduct a full investigation that leaves no stone unturned and no deals are made to protect those that are guilty.

    Summary: Get BP out of the loop. They have proven that with four weeks under their belt they cannot seem to do anything right: fix the leak, tell the truth, or clean up the spill.

    May 22, 2010 12:18 pm at 12:18 pm |

    Not surprisingly, the state-controlled MSM and Obama propoganda machine deliberately fails to mention that Reilly has been a board member of ConocoPhillips oil company for many years. What money is changing hands behind the scenes here??

    May 22, 2010 12:51 pm at 12:51 pm |
  8. addon

    What huge mess! What a terrible situation for those trying to make a living in these areas!

    I hope we've heard the last of the putz from Alaska screamin "Drill Baby Drill" Someone needs to unplug her head to let a little of that air out.

    May 22, 2010 12:52 pm at 12:52 pm |
  9. harold

    Rand Paul the Republican from Kentucky ...the state with NO beaches.. says the Democrats were too tuff on B-P...Really?.. Rand Paul you should be defeated when you run against the Democrat for Senate in Kentucky... You can always get an exec job at B-P...

    May 22, 2010 12:55 pm at 12:55 pm |
  10. Claudia, Houston, Tx

    BP pays it's big CEO's millions and they should know how to cleanup this mess. I've never heard of a company that works with hazardous materials not having CEOs with expertise to know what to do.

    May 22, 2010 01:01 pm at 1:01 pm |
  11. Jeff Spangler

    The short-term answer is improved quality assurance programs for risky activities like ocean drilling, and federal regulators who actually enforce the law rather than snort and sleep with Big Oil's hos. The long-term answer is to accurately assess the risk and decide whether we continue to accept it. Of course we will, because no amount of wind power or other bogus energy from Obama will change the way we depend on petrochemicals. At least be honest about it.

    May 22, 2010 01:10 pm at 1:10 pm |
  12. Jeff - Austin, TX

    Enough already with commissions. What, are they going to meet for months, grandstand for the cameras, have another partisan debate and take no action? The time for action is NOW! There is an EPA directior who should be leading and move things along with all deliberate speed. Mr. President, be decisive and take definitive action to cleanup the current mess and insure that there are no further such occurences. If you cannot, step aside and those with expertise and no political agenda take action.

    May 22, 2010 01:14 pm at 1:14 pm |
  13. James Evans

    What Obama is doing at this point is a bit of a farse. No doubt he and everyone else regardless of who they are want this horrible disaster to be taken care of in the fastest and most complete manner possible.
    That being said invesigating BP is hardly the most pressing matter. It is a political matter though and Obama as usual is posturing and finger pointing rather than acting to be a part of the solution.

    I'm not defending BP nor any of the other entities involved if there is or was neglagence. but BP has not in any way avoided dealing with this and has not been running PR campaigns to sway public opinion and they are spending a ton on the clean up.

    I say, let the governement get in there and assess what kind of help they can be to BP and put all the efforts into that and don't waste time at this point with the typical Dems posing the usual accusatorial and uninformed questions they usually do at these things ala the Queen of self gratification Barbara Boxer who insults every American that isn't an overtly blind patisan each time she opens her mouth.

    May 22, 2010 01:17 pm at 1:17 pm |
  14. monstertiki

    Whatever the administration is doing they need to pick up the pace and take direct control of the situation. The spill started as a tragic loss of 11 lives. It has now turned into the WORST man made ecological disaster in history, that not only impacts hundreds of different of species of fish and other marine life, but it also effects the food supply of the country. If this disaster is not contained it could very well still be around when hurricane season gets here in the fall. Bring in whatever it takes to get the job done and make bp pay for the bill and all the cleanup.

    May 22, 2010 01:19 pm at 1:19 pm |
  15. Disgusted

    Cancel the commission. Just stop drilling. Now, wasn't that easy?

    May 22, 2010 01:20 pm at 1:20 pm |
  16. Brenda

    CNN when are you going to investigate/report how much money that Obama received from BP and all other oil companies??

    The explosion happened--and Obama waited a week before he did anything.

    If this would have been Bush--or any Republican president-–the media (including CNN)-–would have been attacking him on a daily basis.

    This IS Obama's Katrina.

    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 01:22 pm at 1:22 pm |
  17. jimmy4pat

    ...Get real Obamanation: The Rig that blew-up had all the safety "BELLS" and "WHISTLES". They were not maintained and/or not used... Its called human error... Build a new one NOW!... God Bless!

    May 22, 2010 01:24 pm at 1:24 pm |
  18. Bob

    Obama just now forms a commission. When Haiti had an earthquake, our troops were sent in immediately – probably propping up a government that isn't serving Haitians and that should have failed without our intervention.

    When oil is spewing and a clear threat to our own coast, what does this administration do? Nothing. Here is a president who has no self image and no respect for the country he was elected to lead.

    He is supposed to serve the citizens of this country first. Why didn't he get the army corp of engineers in there to fix this instead of allowing the threat to get bigger and bigger?

    May 22, 2010 01:27 pm at 1:27 pm |
  19. AccessFuture

    If the governement would just do their job we wouldn't need more commissions to waste more time and money. We have plenty of regulations already, we just don't have agency that will enforce these rules and regulations. It is time to clean house, fire all these worthless employees and get some employees not afraid to buck the system put in place. I would be willing to enforce these rules if given the chance.

    May 22, 2010 01:32 pm at 1:32 pm |
  20. DENNA

    BP needs to be slapped with so many fines that their collective heads swim. They are a company who deals in oil drilling, etc. Why didn't they have a contingency plan in place in case this happened? Why are they continuing to "try things" to see what works? Company executives have an obligation to be able to deal with any disasters that might be caused by their products. It is hard to have any sympathy for people who callously allow these things to happen. No plan of action? Why? Would it have cost too much?

    May 22, 2010 01:43 pm at 1:43 pm |
  21. Mike Cmero Sr.

    Big deal , it sounds like another coverup is in the works! President Obama has not yet brought any criminal charges against BP executives. He is talking about the next time. The best way to deal with this in the future is to stop offshore drilling Period!! It seems That the government is complicit with BP and just wanting to apease the oil industry. He only fired one person in the agency that issues drilling permits! That will not change the culture of that agency!!
    Not only are fish,turtles,birds and other precious wildlife being destroide, but it will affect human health of thousands of people!!!
    Why is a foreign corporation allowed to drill off our shores anyway?

    May 22, 2010 01:43 pm at 1:43 pm |
  22. Ken in NC

    Mr. President, there is no reason for an "Oil Spill Commission". I just reading yesterday that there was oil all over the Gulf and according to the "Live Feed" from the floor of the Gulf, there is oil shooting up out of a pipe on the ocean floor. It is a pipe that was right under the BP Oil rig that exploded and sank so we can assume that it probably belonged to them.

    There, now I have saved the government millions of dollars that would have been spent to figure out if there was a leak, who it belonged to and who will be responsible. Now all that is left to do is for BP Oil to figure out when they want us, the taxpayers, to start picking up the tab for their screw up. You can also have the EPA to proceed with their 20, 50 or 100 million dollar fines against BP Oil so they can go into court to start having their fines reduced to about 500 thousand dollars in 20 years.

    May 22, 2010 01:45 pm at 1:45 pm |
  23. JAY

    A spill commision, yeh that's what we need, another joke of a commission coming from a bad joke of a president.

    May 22, 2010 01:47 pm at 1:47 pm |
  24. Annie, Atlanta

    I can do that for free – and immediately too:

    1. Don't drill in water so deep you can't work in should something go wrong.

    2. Follow the rules we already have in place.

    3. Keep Halliburton's hands off all rigs since they seem to screw up everything they touch (electrocuted troops in showers in Iraq, for instance).

    May 22, 2010 01:59 pm at 1:59 pm |
  25. rob

    Oh great, lets get together and talk about it. Get out thereand try to help, we must have resources available. If this were a Republican Admin the chorus from the Dems and their friends in the media would be overwhelming.

    This admin seems to have their "Boot on the throat" of this supine national media, Obama won't take questions and Gibbs just dimisses their questions with statements like ""Again, we are overseeing the response, OK?"

    Like the old saying says, "When you lie with dogs, you get fleas"

    May 22, 2010 01:59 pm at 1:59 pm |
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