White House To Establish Commission to Investigate Gulf Oil Spill

By Cullen Dirner

May 17, 2010 5:57pm

From Jake Tapper and Sunlen Miller:

President Obama will sign an executive order to establish a presidential commission to investigate the oil spill in the Gulf of Mexico, Obama administration officials tell ABC News.

Few details were available about the commission, but its announcement comes as the Obama administration faces increased criticism for its handling of the BP oil spill in the Gulf — both for failures by the Department of the Interior's Minerals Management Service (MMS) in adequately regulating offshore drilling, and for questions about whether the administration relied too much on BP for information and response after the April 20 explosion.

"The Commission will take into account the investigations underway concerning the causes of the spill and explore a range of issues including: industry practices; rig safety; Federal, state, and local regulatory regimes; Federal governmental oversight, including the structure and functions of MMS; and environmental review and other protections," said an Administration Official.

Current government officials or elected officials will not be eligible to serve on the commission. Similar commissions were established in the past to investigate other disasters — such as the disaster at the Three Mile Island nuclear plant in 1979 and the explosion of the Challenger Space Shuttle in 1986. 

The President's Commission on the Accident at Three Mile Island and the Presidential Commission on the Space Shuttle Challenger Accident each were formed by executive order after President Jimmy Carter and Ronald Reagan, respectively, faced criticism for what were seen as systematic failures by entrenched bureaucracies, the Nuclear Regulatory Commission and NASA, respectively. 

The White House did not give a time frame for the formal signing of this executive order.

On Friday President Obama said that the “anger and frustration” by the people in the Gulf are sentiments he shares as president.

Whatever happened and caused the spill, the president said, “it is pretty clear that the system failed, and it failed badly.  And for that, there's enough responsibility to go around.  And all parties should be willing to accept it. That includes, by the way, the federal government.”

- Jake Tapper and Sunlen Miller 

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