Obama’s Spill Commission: Just Window Dressing?

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The New York Times has a piece today looking at the special commission that President Obama put together to assess the Gulf disaster. The commission is supposed to assess what happened on the Deepwater Horizon and establish guidelines for how offshore drilling should proceed in the future. This part caught my eye, however, with remarks from commission co-chair William Reilly:

The investigative panel is not charged with determining whether offshore oil development can be conducted safely; rather, its mission is to show how it can resume with greater safeguards.

“The president was clear,” Mr. Reilly said. “He was not inviting us to revise his energy policy. He said he was much more concerned to look ahead than look backward.”

In other words, don’t expect the commission to recommend a revision of the Obama adminstration’s plan to expand offshore oil and gas development.

Call me crazy, but I think we might be missing a step here. Shouldn’t the purpose of this commission be to first evaluate if offshore development can be done safely, and then, if it can be, to then figure out all the safeguards that need to be in place to prevent future BP-like catastrophes?

Perhaps I shouldn’t be too surprised to hear these remarks from Reilly in particular; he has significant ties to the oil industry. But maybe the rest of the spill commission, an impressive group collectively, will have more to say on that.

There are some other concerns raised about the commission in the Times piece. For one, it doesn’t have any staff or budget yet, and probably won’t convene its first meeting until mid-July. (The White House has asked Congress to pony up $15 million for the panel, which also hasn’t happened yet.) The commission also lacks subpoena power right now, though some members of Congress want to pass a bill to grant it that authority.

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DEMOCRACY DOES NOT EXIST...

without free and fair elections, a vigorous free press, and engaged citizens to reclaim power from those who abuse it.

In this election year unlike any other—against a backdrop of a pandemic, an economic crisis, racial reckoning, and so much daily bluster—Mother Jones' journalism is driven by one simple question: Will America move closer to, or further from, justice and equity in the years to come?

If you're able to, please join us in this mission with a donation today. Our reporting right now is focused on voting rights and election security, corruption, disinformation, racial and gender equity, and the climate crisis. We can’t do it without the support of readers like you, and we need to give it everything we've got between now and November. Thank you.

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