(Reuters) - The White House in the spring blocked release of government estimates on the worst-case scenario of the amount of oil that was spewing from BP's well in the Gulf of Mexico, the presidential commission looking into the accident said on Wednesday.
The commission said its staff was told that in late April or early May that the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration wanted to make public some of its long-term, worst-case spill models for the Deepwater Horizon accident and requested approval from the White House's Office of Management and Budget to make the information public.
"Staff was told that the Office of Management and Budget denied NOAA's request," the commission said in a draft report on the amount of oil spilled and what happened to it.
This should put an end to the mainstream media meme that BP’s “initial estimates” were horribly underestimated. In fact, as shown in the Timeline, BP never publicly provided an estimate of flow from the busted well. The first estimates came from the US Coast Guard, and every other official flow estimate given to the media came from either the Coasties or the Flow Rate Technical Group, headed by a US Geological Survey team.
BP would have been crazy to stand behind an official estimate of oil flow, for legal and technical reasons.
But don’t hold your breath. The media bent over backwards to make the Obama White House appear on top of things “from day one.” The White House didn’t realize it had a serious problem until nine days after the rig exploded and sank. Obama didn’t appoint an incident commander until 12 days afterwards. By that time, they were in full damage control mode.
But it wasn’t spill damage they were worried about. It was political damage.
Had the White House not played politics with the numbers, perhaps private, local and state responders could have been more prepared for the onslaught of crude. How do you fight a fire without knowing how much of the structure is engaged? Similarly, how do you fight an oil spill without knowing how much of the stuff is coming at you?
Instead of letting the Coasties and NOAA responders be open and honest with the public, the White House instead moved to create even more economic damage by fabricating a justification for the Deepwater Drilling Moratorium.
UPDATE: via the New York Times:
“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.”
And from the Commission Website:
Commission Issues Four New Staff Draft Working Papers
The National Oil Spill Commission today is releasing four new draft working papers prepared by its staff. Commission staff prepares draft working papers to inform the Commissioners’ on-going examination of the root causes of the Gulf spill and options to guard against and mitigate the impacts of future spills. The Commissioners’ decisions regarding these matters will be contained in the Commission’s final report, expected to be issued on Jan. 11, 2011.
Topics of the attached staff draft working papers are:
- Decision-Making within the Unified Command
- The Amount and Fate of the Oil
- The Use of Surface and Subsea Dispersants during the BP Deepwater Horizon Oil Spill
- The Challenges of Oil Spill Response in the Arctic
The report on the use of dispersants ought to be interesting.