Obama: Commission's goal is to get to 'root causes' of Gulf spill

President Barack Obama named the two co-chairmen of the executive commission to investigate the Gulf oil spill in his weekly address Saturday.

The president appointed former Florida Sen. Bob Graham (D) and former Environmental Protection Agency Administrator William Reilly to the posts. Reilly served during the George H.W. Bush administration.

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“While there are a number of ongoing investigations, including an independent review by the National Academy of Engineering, the purpose of this Commission is to consider both the root causes of the disaster and offer options on what safety and environmental precautions we need to take to prevent a similar disaster from happening again,” Obama said.

Obama has taken a tough line against the three companies likely to be held liable for causing the spill: BP, Transocean and Halliburton.

Last week, after meeting with members of his cabinet, Obama accused executives from the companies of putting on a “ridiculous spectacle” during a congressional hearing, blaming one another for the incident.

The leak, which occurred nearly a month ago, was caused by an explosion on the Deepwater Horizon rig off the coast of Louisiana, which killed 11 people.

Since then, a large amount of oil has spilled into the gulf via an underwater pipeline damaged in the blast on which the fail-safe mechanism failed.

Several congressional panels are looking into the incident, as well as federal agencies.

The administration has proposed legislation in response to the spill, including lifting the liability cap on companies that cause spills.

But so far, the administration has refused to endorse legislation introduced by Senate Democrats, which would raise the cap from $75 million to $10 billion, saying that such an increase could push smaller producers out of the market. Senate Republicans have made similar arguments.


The White House, however, has wanted to remain tough on the companies that caused the spill. Obama said that the commission will investigate the causes of the spill and put forth recommendations to prevent further ones.

The president said the commission is based on an idea put forth by Sen. Sheldon Whitehouse (D-R.I.) and Rep. Lois Capps (D-Calif.). It is officially called the “National Commission on the BP Deepwater Horizon Oil Spill and Offshore Drilling.”

Graham also served as governor of Florida, building a record as a staunch environmentalist. And Reilly was EPA administrator during the Exxon Valdez oil spill in Alaska, one of the most damaging in recent memory.

“I can’t think of two people who will bring greater experience or better judgment to the task at hand. In the days to come, I’ll appoint 5 other distinguished Americans – including scientists, engineers, and environmental advocates – to join them on the Commission,” Obama said. “And I’m directing them to report back in 6 months with recommendations on how we can prevent – and mitigate the impact of – any future spills that result from offshore drilling.”