Obama to create independent commission to review Gulf oil spill

President Barack Obama plans to create an independent commission to probe the Gulf of Mexico oil spill, an administration official and a Capitol Hill aide said.

The April 20 explosion of the Deepwater Horizon rig and the ongoing spill have raised a host of questions about industry safety and the adequacy of federal oversight.

A Capitol Hill aide familiar with the plan said Obama will issue an executive order that creates a commission to probe needed improvements to offshore infrastructure. It will examine industry practices and federal and state regulatory programs.

This will include the structure and roles of the Interior Department’s Minerals Management Service, which is the branch that regulates offshore drilling, the aide said.

Reps. Lois Capps (D-Calif.) and Edward Markey (D-Mass.) recently introduced legislation to create an independent probe akin to commissions created after the 1979 Three Mile Island nuclear power plant accident and the 1986 explosion of the Space Shuttle Challenger.

Both lawmakers cheered the decision to create the oil spill commission.

“President Obama creating an independent blue-ribbon panel on this oil spill will help provide the recommendations to ensure that similar disasters do not happen again,” Markey said, while Capps said it shows that Obama is committed to “transparency and accountability.”

The upcoming commission will join several other probes of the rig explosion – which killed 11 workers – and subsequent spill. The Interior and Homeland Security Departments have launched a joint investigation, and multiple Capitol Hill probes are also under way.