Monday, May 17, 2010

Washington Politicians Big On Commissions, Little on Results

Well, excuse me, if I don't feel warm and fuzzy that President Obama plans to name an independent commission to investigate the Gulf of  Mexico oil spill.

I've lived long enough to know these special commissions are more feel good exercises by politicians than vehicles from which we learn and legislate.

Some of the 9/11 Commission's recommendations were abandoned and those accepted given lip service. The Warren Commission on President Kennedy's assassination left more questions than it answered, some erroneously. In December we are to hear from the president’s National Commission on Fiscal Responsibility and Reform headed by former Sen. Alan Simpson and Clinton administration honcho Erskine Bowles.

By executive order, Obama will appoint a panel to study oil industry practices, rig safety, regulation and governmental oversight, including the "structure and functions" of the Minerals Management Service. No current government employee or elected official will be eligible to serve on the commission, said the unnamed official who leaked the story to the Associated Press.

After one such panel investigated the nuclear accident at Three Mile Island, no new nuclear plants have been built since. That oughta warm the hearts of off-shore oil drilling opponents. But don't count on it.

There are six congressional oversight panels investigating the oil leak

I don't mean to step on their turf, but wouldn't consolidating the investigations into one select oversight committee be more practical? That's what happened in the Watergate investigation during the Nixon administration and that old country lawyer Sen. Sam Ervin of North Carolina did a splendid job. All kinds of prosecutions came out of those hearings, toppling all the president's men. Nixon quit before the House had a chance to impeach him.

I don't want blood out of these panels. Simply some accountability.

There is still no assurance that BP will pay for all cleanup damages and face the music for damage liability to those the spill has harmed.

Tuesday will be the third day that BP has had some luck diverting the spill by siphoning off about a 1,000 barrels of oil from the ruptured 21-inch pipe to a tanker a mile above. That's about 20% of the gusher's rate of spillage depending on BP's estimates or 0.2% of 50,000 bpd as some scientists suspect.

On Monday, Chris Oynes, the associate administrator for offshore drilling programs for the Minerals Management Service, announced he is retiring at the end of this month. Oynes has been criticized for being too close to Big Oil execs described by Obama as a "cozy relationship" he wants to end.

Also on Monday six senate Democrats and Independent Bernie Sanders from the Environment Committee asked the Justice Department to launch a criminal investigation.

As I said, there is no paucity of on-going investigations.

Just one question. Where were these traffic cops before the Deepwater Horizons explosion?

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