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Obama demands thorough probe of oil spill

Updated: 2:19 p.m.
By Michael D. Shear
President Obama vowed a "full and vigorous accounting" of the causes of the oil spill disaster in the Gulf of Mexico, telling the leaders of a new commission that they should pursue the trail of blame without limits.

"They have my full support to follow the facts wherever they may lead, without fear or favor," Obama said in the Rose Garden Tuesday after meeting with the co-chairmen of the commission, former Florida senator and governor Bob Graham and former EPA administrator William Reilly.

Obama also announced that he has ordered his top officials to triple the manpower in areas where the oil has already washed ashore or is expected to within 24 hours. Some local officials along the coast have criticized the federal government for not having enough people standing by to respond to the oil washing ashore.

The White House has sought to balance both the immediate response to the ongoing crisis and the long-term investigation. Obama said Tuesday that the commission he created will begin addressing the latter, and he promised that "very soon" he will appoint the group's other five members.

"We have an obligation to investigate what went wrong" leading to the April 20 blowout of a deep-sea oil well in the Gulf of Mexico that was being drilled on behalf of oil giant BP, Obama said during brief remarks in humid, Washington weather. If current laws are insufficient to prevent such catastrophes, "the laws must change," he said. "If oversight was inadequate to enforce these laws, oversight has to be reformed. If our laws were broken, leading to this death and destruction, my solemn pledge is that we will bring those responsible to justice on behalf of the victims of this catastrophe and the people of the Gulf region."

Obama's meeting with Graham and Reilly came after the situation in the Gulf worsened over the weekend. Efforts to kill the well by pumping mud into it failed, and administration officials acknowledged that the next attempts could make the situation worse before it gets better.
The president emerged from his Oval Office discussion looking grim and said the oil spill has now become "the greatest environmental disaster of its kind in our nation's history." He said the oil gushing into the water was not only affecting the economy and the environment, but also a "way of life" in the region.

He promised that the six-month review led by Graham and Reilly will focus on "a comprehensive look at how the oil and gas industry operates and how our government oversees those operations."
And he hinted that future support for new oil drilling in the deep waters off the nation's coast would be contingent on what the commission finds. He said decisions about any expansion of drilling -- which he had announced just weeks before the spill -- would wait until the group finishes.

"Only then can we be assured that deep-water drilling can take place safely," Obama said. "Only then can we accept further development of these resources as we transition to a clean energy economy. Only then can we be confident that we've done what's necessary to prevent history from repeating itself.

The chairmen of the oil spill commission are charged with taking six months to evaluate the evidence surrounding the cause of the oil spill and to recommend changes to federal oversight and regulatory policy after they conclude. The White House explicitly compared the commission to the panel that investigated the cause of the space shuttle Challenger explosion in 1986.

By choosing the pair -- a popular Democratic politician and a respected Republican environmental official -- the president has signaled his hope that the commission's results will be broadly accepted, regardless of the outcome.

Reilly, a former Reagan administration official, is a director of the oil company ConocoPhillips, but also serves as chairman of the board of the World Wildlife Fund. Graham, a former governor and U.S. senator from Florida, was known for his focus on his state's environment.

But much will depend on the other five members of the commission, who have yet to be chosen.
Obama's executive order says they "shall be drawn from among distinguished individuals, and may include those with experience in or representing the scientific, engineering, and environmental communities, the oil and gas industry, or any other area determined by the President to be of value to the Commission in carrying out its duties."

The possible participation of industry officials has angered some environmentalists, who say the commission should not be influenced by the presence of oil company executives.

The 14-member Challenger commission, headed by William P. Rogers, a former attorney general and secretary of state to several presidents, was filled with noted scientists, astronauts and flight experts, including Neil Armstrong, Chuck Yeager and Sally K. Ride.

The Rogers Commission, as it was known, issued a scathing, 225-page report that blamed the accident on a lax culture at NASA that allowed design and decision-making errors that led to the failure of O-rings on the shuttle's solid fuel booster rockets.

Among its more famous findings was the conclusion that the disaster, which claimed the lives of seven astronauts, was "an accident rooted in history."

Now, the dual questions facing the oil spill commission are similar: What was the immediate cause of the explosion that sank the Deepwater Horizon oil rig and opened a gusher of oil on the sea floor? And what human factors in private industry or government made the explosion possible?

Commission members are all but certain to eventually answer the first question. But it is the second question that could have far wider implications for the future of oil drilling along the U.S. coastline.

In the wake of the Rogers Commission, shuttle flights stopped for 32 months as NASA confronted the report's findings and made changes to the procedures for launches. Obama has already ordered a six-month halt to drilling in deep water, but the future of exploration might depend on what the Graham/Reilly commission concludes.

By Micheal D. Shear  |  June 1, 2010; 1:36 PM ET
Categories:  44 The Obama Presidency  
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Next: James Cameron meets with feds on oil spill


Like most of us, I think the adminstration is frustrated. We all want to hear the leak has stopped. So until that happens much will be said.

Yet the well thinking among know-- until BP officials solve this problem the Obama administration must keep the pressure on. Talk about what irks us, the environment and for others, how they will make a living given the catastrophic effects we see and hear about daily.

Demanding a probe-- is the understatement of the year. We must have one. Drilling is not an absolutely bad word, but DRILLING without contingency plans for accidents like this is unforgiveable.

Posted by: Victoria5 | June 1, 2010 3:07 PM | Report abuse

Posted by: racerdoc | June 1, 2010 2:25 PM | Report abuse

You're an id10t!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

Posted by: askgees | June 1, 2010 2:55 PM | Report abuse

The possible participation of industry officials has angered some environmentalists, who say the commission should not be influenced by the presence of oil company executives.

So it makes sense not to include those who know nothing about oil exploration. Like it or not oil will be with us for the foreseeable future.

I have been surprised that the Administration hasn't been able to use this disaster to push for his energy policy...not that I'm complaining.

Posted by: moebius22 | June 1, 2010 2:54 PM | Report abuse

The US needs to distance it's self from this administration....

Posted by: askgees | June 1, 2010 2:47 PM | Report abuse

It would likely be more helpful to concentrate resources on fixing the problem rather than beginning the finger pointing. Interesting that Obama vows to prosecute if any laws were broken. Maybe he should enforce federal immigration law too.

Posted by: icmop911 | June 1, 2010 2:33 PM | Report abuse

Meanwhile, Obama is off to plan his next dinner party...

Posted by: georgana | June 1, 2010 2:31 PM | Report abuse

You know what is a joke -- all you losers spewing more crapola than the oil spill.

what is Obama to do -there is nothing he or anyone is capable of doing that is not being done right now.

You can hope he would HANDHOLD you all to sleep, but he and the administration are doing everything possible and it is totally sickening that you continue to rake him for his response.

If you or your rethug friends have answers -- WHY NOT PUT THEM IN PLACE>

Because you don't -- you have no better clue than this administration.

If is disgusting to see you all gloat over a tragedy such as this. If you had any brains you would also be for the moratorium on drilling until all wells are inspected as safe for both the workers on them and for the environment. that they all have safety precautions in place and those precautions are sufficient.

but no -- the rethugs were all over the airways this weekend spewing how this moratorium would make gas prices SOAR over $5 a gallon, and now any new measurements the government puts in place will drive down investment in drilling and keep oil companies from exploration.

you see you can't have it both ways-- you cannot spew out hate about how obama is doing his job.--He is either in charge of cleaning up the oil mess -and that includes putting in new safer tougher guidelines so this doesn't happen again - or he continues to let oil companies take short-cuts and cost lives and money.

Seems the rethugs all all for the cutting of corners, cheap gas and expendable human lives.

Posted by: racerdoc | June 1, 2010 2:25 PM | Report abuse

Who takes responsibility and is in control of BP continuous (41 days +) of oil spilling up from the bottom of the Gulf Coast and what good is Eric Holder going to do?

We are witnessing the most pathetic and passive federal government response to a national disaster contaminating the environment beyond any ones’ comprehension and destroying life from the depth of the ocean to the Gulf shore lines.

And, here is what the U.S. President says, "They have my full support to follow the facts wherever they lead, without fear or favor," Obama said. Read the bureaucratic crap of without fear or favor.
Do we have an impeachable offense to the American people by Obama’s derelictions of duties and oath of office when the President does nothing effective to stop the disastrous assault of toxic material on America’s shore lines destroying the environment and life?

Posted by: klausdmk | June 1, 2010 2:15 PM | Report abuse

"In a sign of an increasingly assertive administration role, Attorney General Eric Holder also planned to visit the Gulf Coast Tuesday - - "

He better bring half the Secret Service along to protect his butt from the good people of Louisiana.


Stop with all the political hacks. Hand over to Louisiana officials full authority and BP's checkbook, and let them save their state.

Stop the madness!

Posted by: FutureView2010 | June 1, 2010 2:13 PM | Report abuse

Heck of a job Barry!!

We have 10% unemployment; we have four states threatened with more; you dither for 42 days and decide to appoint a commission to officially dither longer; you send your AG to dig up stuff to prosecute BP; and you send Carol Browner out to advise the world that you have been in charge since day one.


Quit using your knuckle strategy on the folks who are trying to reduce the problem (Including the citizens of Louisiana who you attempted to brow beat during your visit on Friday), and either START LEADING, OR GET OUT OF THE WAY!!

YOU are fastly becoming an impediment to progress in anything you touch!

Posted by: wheeljc | June 1, 2010 2:12 PM | Report abuse

Wow... oil is still spilling so let's get an investigation going and check back in with us in 6 months....

How about plug the hole your daughter is so concerned about... oh I forgot that was a story you made up to show you care.

Posted by: tbastian | June 1, 2010 2:04 PM | Report abuse

Great - after 42 days Obama's big response to the oil to appoint a panel....this guy is a total joke.

Posted by: Realist201 | June 1, 2010 1:55 PM | Report abuse

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