Introducing the co-chairs of the National Commission on the BP Deepwater Horizon Oil Spill and Offshore Drilling, President Obama for the first time raised the possibility of criminal wrongdoing in the oil spill.
“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,” President Obama said.
The remarks came the same day that Attorney General Eric Holder heads to the Gulf region to meet with state attorneys general to discuss BP’s liability and the administration of laws as the US tries to deal with the worst environmental disaster in US history.
The president noted, not for the first time the “far-too-cozy relationship between oil companies and the agencies that regulate them,” most notably in his view the Minerals Management Service, which he announced his administration would separate into three distinct groups – “the people who permit offshore leases, who collect revenues, and who regulate the safety of drilling.”
“When Interior Secretary Ken Salazar took office,” the president said today, he found an MMS “that had been plagued by corruption for years, corruption that was underscored by a recent inspector general’s report that uncovered appalling activity that took place before last year. Secretary Salazar immediately took steps to clean up that corruption but this oil spill made clear that more reforms are needed.”
President Obama praised the co-chairs of the commission, former Sen. Bob Graham, D-Fla., and the EPA Administrator under President George HW Bush, Bill Reilly.
In their Oval Office meeting prior to the president’s remarks just now in the White House Rose Garden, the president told them “in doing this work they have my full support to follow the facts wherever they may lead, without fear or favor,” he said. “And I am directing them to report back in six months with options for how we can prevent and mitigate the impact of any future spills that result from offshore drilling.”
He said he would shortly appoint five other members of the commission, which he has authorized “to hold public hearings and to request information from government, from not-for-profit organizations, and from experts in the oil and gas industry both at home and abroad, as well as from relevant companies, including B.P. Transocean, Halliburton and others.”
- Jake Tapper