A Message to the President

According to the New York Times, President Barack Obama is expected to establish an independent commission to investigate the oil drilling disaster in the Gulf of Mexico.

This commission, which he will create by executive order, will mirror past panels that former presidents created to investigate other catastrophes including the space shuttle Challenger disaster and the nuclear accident at Three Mile Island.  It is also one of the key recommendations I offered to the President in a letter sent on May 4th.

This commission will be a critical step in providing a thorough and unbiased assessment of what happened and how such disasters can be averted in the future. We don’t know the details yet of who will be on this panel or what their exact orders will be, but here are key items I hope they will be charged with:

  • Examine the causes of the current spill as well as the adequacy of oil spill containment and clean-up measures. 
  • Determine whether and how such spills can be avoided in the future
  • Assess the implications of its findings for drilling in, or adjacent to sensitive or ecologically important areas, including in the Arctic.
  • Make recommendations on how to strengthen laws, regulations and reform agency oversight in order to keep this from happening again.

Beyond forming this commission, there are additional steps we’d like to see the President take.  We also need him to maintain a moratorium on new offshore drilling activity until the independent commission has completed its work and its recommendations have been implemented.

For a complete sense of what needs to be done, please see my message to the President below, filmed in large part during my trip last week to the Gulf.