Bipartisan look at oil spill 

For 73 days, Americans have watched the Obama administration and BP grapple with the Deepwater Horizon oil spill in the Gulf of Mexico. Americans have repeatedly called upon the administration to stop the spill, clean up our coasts and make sure a similar tragedy never happens again.

Unfortunately, many of the administration’s actions appear to be based on ideology instead of what’s best for the country. President Barack Obama’s new BP Deepwater Horizon Oil Spill and Offshore Drilling Commission is only the latest example.
Instead of appointing unbiased scientists, engineers and drilling experts to examine what happened in the Gulf, the president appointed extreme environmentalists and politicians who’ve already made up their minds about offshore drilling.

Recently, Senate Democrats and Republicans took action to ensure that the American people get the full story about what happened in the Gulf. On June 30, I introduced an amendment to the Outer Continental Shelf Reform Act of 2010 to establish an independent congressional commission to investigate the oil spill. It would be modeled after the successful 9/11 Commission.

During a recent Senate Energy and Natural Resources Committee business meeting, five Democrats voted in favor of my amendment. The bipartisan support for a credible commission speaks volumes about the lack of confidence in the president’s commission to investigate the accident fairly and offer guidance to help prevent another similar disaster.

The congressional commission would include members with technical expertise in engineering, health and safety, environmental compliance and cleanup, and oil and gas exploration. The 10 members would be appointed equally by both parties. The president would appoint the chairman, and congressional leaders would pick the vice chairman and remaining members.

The makeup of the congressional commission stands in stark contrast to the makeup of the president’s commission. Six of the seven people appointed by Obama have publicly opposed offshore drilling.

One of his appointees, Frances Beinecke, heads an environmental group that’s actively involved in litigation on the president’s offshore moratorium. By any reasonable standard, active involvement in related litigation would warrant recusal.

Also, my amendment takes important steps to ensure that the commission would have the power it needs to get answers to difficult questions. The congressional commission would have subpoena power and must provide its final report within 180 days.

Additionally, the commission will first review information compiled by existing investigations, including the president’s commission, to avoid unnecessary duplication.

The oil spill in the Gulf is the worst environmental disaster in the history of our country. The American people want answers, not another Washington, D.C., charade with a predictable outcome.

On June 14, Obama said members of his commission will “work to determine the causes of the catastrophe and implement the safety and environmental protections we need to prevent a similar disaster from happening again.” But the biased nature of the president’s commission undermines its credibility.

A bipartisan congressional commission is the only way to fulfill Obama’s promise to get the facts and prevent a future tragedy from occurring in our country.

As the energy bill continues to make its way through Congress, I’ll continue to fight for a bipartisan, unbiased commission.

In the wake of the disaster, we must ensure that future policy decisions are based on facts, not an agenda.

Sen. John Barrasso is a Wyoming Republican.

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A daily newspaper covering San Francisco, San Mateo County and serving Alameda, Marin and Santa Clara counties.
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