NOAA seeks to clarify oil flow claims with spill commission

The staff report suggests that the White House may have blocked public disclosure of worst-case discharge scenarios from BP’s blown-out well shortly after the spill began in April.

“The Commission staff has also been advised that, in late April or early May 2010, NOAA wanted to make public some of its long-term, worst-case discharge models for the Deepwater Horizon spill, and requested approval to do so from the White House’s Office of Management and Budget. Staff was told that the Office of Management and Budget denied NOAA's request,” the paper states.

The White House is strongly pushing back against the draft staff findings, noting that the document in question was not an analysis or computation of the flow rate – which was badly underestimated in initial federal and BP estimates – but instead an analysis of how the spewing oil could affect shorelines.

“This is basically a document that goes through the likelihood of shoreline impacts and assesses a series of 500 models for where that oil may or may not go,” Gibbs noted Thursday. He said OMB initially sent the report in question back to NOAA because it failed to consider skimming, dispersion and other response actions to keep the oil off shorelines. It was altered and subsequently made public, the White House notes.

The White House also notes that administration officials discussed worst-case scenarios in interviews in early May.