Gulf oil spill: White House blocked and put spin on scientists’ warnings
Investigative report into the BP oil spill reveals US government blocked scientists model data two weeks after the rig explosion
BP’s Deepwater Horizon oil rig seen burning in April. A report commissioned by Barack Obama has revealed that the White House office of management and budget blocked scientists seeking permission to show worst case scenario models two weeks after the explosion. Photograph: Gerald Herbert/AP
The White House blocked government scientists from warning the American public of the potential environmental disaster caused by BP’s broken well in the Gulf of Mexico, a report released by the national commission investigating the oil spill said yesterday.
The report, produced by a panel appointed by Barack Obama to investigate the spill, said that about two weeks after the BP rig exploded scientists from the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) asked the White House for permission to release their models showing their worst case scenarios for the spill.
The White House office of management and budget, which is a traditional clearing house for decisions, turned down the request, the report said, quoting interviews with administration officials.
The report, one of four released today by the commission, provides the most compelling evidence to date of direct attempts by the White House to spin the BP oil spill disaster.
The White House disputed the commission’s findings. “Senior government officials were clear with the public what the worst-case flow rate could be,” the acting director of the OMB, Jeffrey Zients and the NOAA adminstrator, Jane Lubchenco, said in a statement.
The commission report does not explore why the White House sought to block the worst-case scenarios for the spill.
The report amplifies scathing criticism last week by the commission’s co-chairs, Bob Graham and William Reilly, of the Obama administration’s handling of the disaster.
It goes on to catalogue other lapses by the administration, including repeated underestimates of the size of the spill, and downplaying the environmental damage after the BP well was capped.
The report found particular fault with the White House energy adviser, Carol Browner, who appeared on television on 4 August and said: “The vast majority of oil was gone.”
It said Browner was overstating the findings of a NOAA analysis of the fate of the oil.
“By initially underestimating the amount of oil flow and then, at the end of the summer, appearing to underestimate the amount of oil remaining in the Gulf, the federal government created the impression that it was either not fully competent to handle the spill or not fully candid with the American people about the scope of the problem,” the report said.
The documents for the first time put the White House at the centre of the long running dispute between the administration and independent scientists about how much oil was discharged into the Gulf, and how much remains in the water.
At first, BP claimed the well was leaking 1,000 barrels a day. By early May, the administration had revised its estimate upwards to 5,000 barrels a day, but based its assessment on the work of a single NOAA scientist using “overly casual” analysis of satellite images of oil on the surface of the ocean.
The administration clung to that estimate – which turned out to be 12 times lower than the actual spill size – despite known inaccuracies in the scientists’ work, the report said.
It went on: “Loss of the public trust during a disaster is not an incidental public relations problem.”
Suzanne Goldenberg, US environment correspondent
Thursday 7 October 2010
Source: The Guardian
Corexit also contain arsenic, cadmium, chromium, mercury, cyanide, and other heavy metals. Dispersing oil with it increases toxicity 11-fold ….
People who work near it are hemorrhaging internally. And that’s what dispersants are supposed to do.EPA now is taking the position that they really don’t know how dangerous it is, even though if you read the label, it tells you how dangerous it is. And, for example, in the Exxon Valdez case, people who worked with dispersants, most of them are dead now. The average death age is around fifty. It’s very dangerous, and it’s an economic-it’s an economic protector of BP, not an environmental protector of the public.
The federal agency responsible for ensuring that an oil rig in the Gulf of Mexico was operating safely before it exploded last month fell well short of its own policy that inspections be done at least once per month, an Associated Press investigation shows.
Since January 2005, the federal Minerals Management Service conducted at least 16 fewer inspections aboard the Deepwater Horizon than it should have under the policy, a dramatic fall from the frequency of prior years, according to the agency’s records.
Scientists studying video of the gushing oil well have tentatively calculated that it could be flowing at a rate of 25,000 to 80,000 barrels of oil a day. The latter figure would be 3.4 million gallons a day.
“The Gulf of Mexico is a very big ocean. The amount of volume of oil and dispersant we are putting into it is tiny in relation to the total water volume.”
Approximately 325,000 gallons of dispersant have been deployed so far in BP’s effort to break up the spreading oil slick before it hits the fragile Gulf coast, and over 500,000 gallons more are available.
The company acknowledged Friday that it had completed the final cementing of the oil well and pipe just 20 hours before the blowout last week.