President Obama Picks Oil Spill Commission Co-Chairs

WASHINGTON (May 21, 2010) - - According to multiple news reports, President Obama will name retired U.S. Sen. Bob Graham (D-Fla.) and former EPA Administrator William Reilly to co-chair the President's independent commission on the BP offshore oil disaster.

Frances Beinecke, President of the Natural Resources Defense Council, made the following statement:

“An environmental disaster of catastrophic proportions is destroying some of the richest and most complex ocean, coastal water and wetlands habitat in the country. The costs, to date, are unfathomable and the threat, going forward, incalculable.

“The work of a fully independent commission is our best hope of finding out what caused this disaster and what we can do to make sure nothing like this ever happens again. The President has selected two knowledgeable and fair-minded leaders to head this bi-partisan commission. Both men have demonstrated the expertise and the commitment to environmental protection needed to ensure the success of this commission's vital work.

“Former Sen. Graham was raised in the Everglades and has been a champion of responsible environmental protections as governor of Florida and in the U.S. Senate. As Chairman of the Senate Select Committee on Intelligence, he co-sponsored legislation overhauling the intelligence community in the aftermath of the attacks of Sept. 11, 2001. He is well-equipped to assess this disaster and recommend needed change.

“Reilly served as Administrator of the Environmental Protection Agency for four years under President George H.W. Bush. Prior to that, he was president of the World Wildlife Fund and, before that, he was president of The Conservation Foundation. As president and CEO of Aqua International Partners, Reilly overseas international investments in water purification and wastewater management in developing countries.

“The commission has its work cut out for it.

“Specifically, the commission must answer three fundamental questions.

“First, we need to know what caused the blow-out that destroyed the Deepwater Horizon, took 11 lives and left an open well to gush millions of gallons of crude oil unabated into the open sea. The commission must go beyond questions of mechanical and operational failure and look, more comprehensively, into the regulatory and enforcement regimen we depend on to protect the public from this kind of harm and the resources devoted to ensuring the integrity of those safeguards.

“Second, the entire framework of government oversight needs to be reviewed and strengthened. We will look to the commission for specific recommendations as to how we can prevent future disasters like this and prepare for timely and effective response if they do occur.

“Finally, the commission should develop new guidelines to help the government decide whether, when, where and under what circumstances new offshore drilling operations should be allowed. Importantly, these guidelines must take the full measure of the exorbitant costs - environmental and economic - an offshore drilling accident can impose on the nation and its people, so that future operations can be designed in a way that takes the risks of such harm fully into account.

“Meanwhile, there should be a moratorium on all new offshore drilling activity, pending the outcome of the commission's work.”