The Obama administration was slow to ramp up its response to the Gulf of Mexico oil spill, then overreacted as public criticism turned the disaster into a political liability, the staff of a special commission investigating the disaster say in papers released Wednesday.
In four papers issued by the National Commission on the BP Deepwater Horizon Oil Spill and Offshore Drilling, commission investigators fault the administration for giving too much credence to initial estimates that just 1,000 barrels of oil a day were flowing from the ruptured BP PLC well, and for later allowing political concerns to drive decisions such as how to deploy people and material—such as oil-containing boom—to contain the spreading oil.
“Though some of the command structure was put in place very quickly, in other respects the mobilization of resources to combat the spill seemed to lag,” the commission investigators found.
Coast Guard and other federal emergency-response officials told the commission they wouldn’t have acted differently if they had known the spill rate was much greater than BP’s initial 1,000 barrel a day estimate.
But the spill commission investigators write that “for the first ten days of the spill, it appears that a sense of over optimism affected responders.”
The commission staff said it is “possible that inaccurate flow-rate figures may have hindered the sub-sea efforts to stop and to contain the flow of oil at the wellhead.”
There was also an effort to censor scientists. Needless to say, the long knives would have been out for the Bush Administration if this report said about it what it is saying about President Obama’s team; questions about its competence and its anti-science bent would be asked openly and constantly. We were repeatedly assured that if only we elect an Administration made up of people who like government, then government would work better (Paul Krugman has been a major advocate on this theme). It just isn’t happening.