Why Were Feds Pulling the Wool?
How disgraceful that BP kept the American people in the dark for weeks about federal worst-case estimates on the scope of the Gulf of Mexico oil disaster.
But wait. It wasn't BP that did that. It was the Obama administration. Or so say the troubling preliminary findings by the staff of a commission investigating the disaster - a commission appointed by the president himself.
What's going on here?
According to excerpts issued Wednesday, the National Commission on the BP Deepwater Horizon Oil Spill and Offshore Drilling does not intend to pull any punches in the report on the accident that it will deliver to the White House early in 2011. And some of those findings, if the early fragments are accurate, appear to be -downright perplexing.
'Loss of Faith'
Here are just some of the details:
The government "repeatedly underestimated how much oil was flowing into the Gulf of Mexico and how much was left after the well was capped in July," in the words of The New York Times - "leading to a loss of faith in the government's ability to handle the spill and a continuing breach between the federal authorities and state and local officials."
Back in the spring, two weeks after the catastrophic oil rig explosion, the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration asked the administration for permission to publicize its estimates on the potentially worst effects from the spill. But the White House Office of Management and Budget (what did that department have to do with it?) denied the request. The report was revised and eventually released in July.
At several points, the government repeatedly - and, it seems, purposely - issued gross underestimates of the amount of oil flowing from the well and the amount remaining in the gulf. Though government scientists (and even BP officials!) were saying that the daily flow rate could be as high as 110,000 barrels, the administration stubbornly stuck to its unrealistically small public estimate that the amount was limited to a mere 5,000 barrels a day.
In Pollyanna fashion, administration officials proclaimed in August that 75 percent of the oil had dissolved, evaporated or been collected, -making it look as if their efforts had saved the environment. They later had to backpedal, and the commission (appointed, remember, by Obama) now says the government's own data didn't come close to supporting such rosy scenarios even at the time.
'Not Fully Candid,' Indeed
It would be one thing if it were BP itself trying to pull the wool over the eyes of the American people - and there must have been plenty of that going on as well. But for the government itself to be doing the whitewashing boggles the mind.
And to what end? To make itself look like the hero of a story in which its role was really spotty at best?
As a result of its inaccuracies, according to the wording of one report, "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."
Neither possibility offers much comfort.
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