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Obama's Oil Spill Panel: Will It Be Better or Worse Than Carter's Three Mile Island Commission?

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In the next few days, President Obama will announce the formation of an independent commission to investigate the Deepwater Horizon oil rig disaster. The commission will likely be similar to previous commissions convened by presidents to investigate the space shuttle Challenger disaster and the nuclear accident at Three Mile Island.

The commission convened will likely face tremendous pressure from BP, Transocean, Halliburton, and other oil and energy company interests who wish to ensure the commission organized by the Obama Administration does not come to a decision that puts further constraints on offshore drilling or drilling for oil altogether.

McClatchy Newspapers reported May 18, 2010, that BP is withholding facts about the oil leak into the Gulf of Mexico and the Obama Administration is allowing BP to withhold facts. The story said:

"... the results of tests on the extent of workers' exposure to evaporating oil or from the burning of crude over the gulf, even though researchers say that data is crucial in determining whether the conditions are safe.

Moreover, the company isn't monitoring the extent of the spill and only reluctantly released videos of the spill site that could give scientists a clue to the amount of the oil in gulf.

BP's role as the primary source of information has raised questions about whether the government should intervene to gather such data and to publicize it and whether an adequate cleanup can be accomplished without the details of crude oil spreading across the gulf.

Private assurances to not follow all the data and testimony from workers, researchers, and scientists on the disaster may also be made so that information in any published report will have a limited negative impact on oil companies like BP.

Time constraints will likely be placed on the commission that will impact or hurry the work of the commission like time constraints did for the commission that investigated the Three Mile Island accident.

A "Supplemental View by Bruce Babbitt," former governor of Arizona who served on the commission that investigated the Three Mile Island accident stated:

"We had a real problem coming to grips with this issue because of the time constraints on examining the characteristics of other utilities operating nuclear power plants. I can, therefore, understand the difficulties in formulating a specific recommendation at this time.

Yet I must believe that our findings do support more than what we have said here by way of recommendations. We cannot simply urge the utility, industry, and the Nuclear Regulatory Commission to pay more attention to safety and to establish higher standards.

While this Commission has clearly addressed the institutional shortcomings of the NRC in its recommendations, it has not addressed the institutional problems of the industry."

The likelihood that the commission will not investigate the full extent of the accident and address the systematic or institutional failings of oil companies certainly exists.

The Three Mile Island Commission was a decent selection of individuals that combined a diversity of institutional perspectives. In addition to Babbitt, Patrick E. Haggerty, co-founder of Texas Instruments, Inc., Carolyn Lewis, Assoc. Prof. of the Graduate School of Journalism at Columbia University, Paul A. Marks, Vice President for Health Sciences and Frode Jensen Professor at Columbia University, Cora B. Marrett, Prof. of Sociology and Afro-American Studies at the Univ. of Wisconsin-Madison, Lloyd McBride, President of the United Steelworkers of America, Harry C. McPherson, a partner with Verner, Liipfert, Bernhard, and McPherson, Russell W. Peterson, President of the National Audubon Society, Thomas H. Pigford, Prof. and Chairman of the Dept. of Nuclear Engineering at U.C. Berkeley, Theodore B. Taylor, visiting lecturer at the Dept. of Mechanical and Aerospace Engineering at Princeton University, and Anne D. Trunk, a resident of Middletown, Pennsylvania, all served on the Commission.

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Kevin Gosztola is a writer and curator of Firedoglake's blog The Dissenter, a blog covering civil liberties in the age of technology. He is an editor for OpEdNews.com and a former intern and videographer for The Nation Magazine.And, he's the (more...)

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If the government is already covering up this ecol... by Robert Blinch-Edwards on Wednesday, May 19, 2010 at 10:49:21 AM
And when will they deliver their enlightened concl... by Marika on Wednesday, May 19, 2010 at 11:46:43 AM
Giddy up, cowboy! Please check out like http://w... by maciej kloer on Wednesday, May 19, 2010 at 11:59:25 AM
This is not Obama's oil spill it is Chenney's who ... by James Mc Shane on Wednesday, May 19, 2010 at 1:47:18 PM
Please. Obama is just as responsible for the ongoi... by Kevin Gosztola on Wednesday, May 19, 2010 at 2:15:15 PM
Anyone who reads my comments knows that I am no Ob... by WML on Wednesday, May 19, 2010 at 3:53:07 PM
November 17, 2004 "New Documents reveal Bush Admin... by trail the dogs on Wednesday, May 19, 2010 at 3:20:47 PM
and I wouldn't if I could. But where did you get t... by GLloyd Rowsey on Wednesday, May 19, 2010 at 4:36:23 PM
I took Obama's portrait from a Denver 2008 (DNC) p... by Kevin Gosztola on Thursday, May 20, 2010 at 2:44:01 PM
You did a damn fine job of designing.... by GLloyd Rowsey on Thursday, May 20, 2010 at 3:34:32 PM
Whenever these worthless politicians say they want... by 911TRUTH on Wednesday, May 19, 2010 at 10:36:23 PM
Kev, just listen to this idiot spokesman for BP, B... by boomerang on Wednesday, May 19, 2010 at 11:08:12 PM
That the sea is turning red? A sign? But if the s... by Michael Morris on Thursday, May 20, 2010 at 7:11:54 AM