The People of America's Oil and Natural Gas Indusry

Oil Spill Commission Created

Jane Van Ryan

Jane Van Ryan
Posted May 24, 2010

With the stroke of a pen, President Obama yesterday created the bipartisan National Commission on the BP Deepwater Horizon Oil Spill and Offshore Drilling to make recommendations on how to prevent and/or mitigate the impact of future oil spills.

The commission will be led by former Florida Gov. and U.S. Sen. Bob Graham and former Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) Administrator William K. Reilly. According to the president's Executive Order, the commission will issue a report in six months.

On the Gulf coast, nearly 25,000 people and 1,150 vessels used every safe and well-tested means available to fight the spread of the oil. They conducted controlled oil burns at sea, and along some Louisiana shorelines, gathered gooey balls of sand and emulsified oil. Joint Unified Command officials report 2.4 million feet of containment and sorbet boom have been deployed so far, amounting to 454.5 miles--enough to stretch from New Orleans almost to Clearwater, Fla.

Dispersants have played a key role in the battle against the Gulf oil spill. At the end of last week, BP was ordered to stop using the Corexit 9500 dispersant by EPA due to concerns about possible toxicity. In a 12-page document, however, BP argued that a less-toxic option contains a chemical that could have adverse impact on wildlife over a period of several years. EPA released a portion of BP's discussion of dispersants to the public and BP criticized the agency, saying it improperly released confidential business information.

Today, Interior Sec. Ken Salazar and Homeland Security Sec. Janet Napolitano are traveling to the Gulf to inspect the response efforts, while engineers prepare for the "top kill."

With 12 full hours of diagnostics still needed before pumping heavy fluids into the top of the blowout preventer (BOP) and into the well, BP says the top kill initiative could slip from Tuesday to Wednesday. Private engineers and scientists have been joined by technical experts from the national laboratories. As The Los Angeles Times reports, working on a well 5,000 feet beneath the water's surface is as complex as solving a problem on the Moon.

One final note: Remember the underwater plume of oil supposedly drifting along a few hundred feet above the seabed? It doesn't exist, according to the Joint Unified Command. Officials say it was "misreported."

ABOUT THE AUTHOR

Jane Van Ryan was formerly senior communications manager and new media advisor at the American Petroleum Institute (API), where she wrote blog posts and produced podcasts and videos. Before coming to API, Jane managed communications for a large science and engineering corporation, and for a top-tier research and engineering university. A few years ago, you might have seen her in your living room when she delivered the news on television. Jane officially retired from API in 2011 and now freelances as an independent communications consultant when not gardening at her farm in Virginia.