Congress: Did anyone think about the environment?
Oil spill commission probes the Obama administration's fickle stance on offshore oil drilling.
Thu, Aug 26, 2010 at 11:42 AM
NOT BUYING IT: Bob Graham had a tough time getting his head around the testimony during day one of the oil spill commission hearings. (Photo: Pablo Martinez Monsivais/AP)
Remember March? The Gulf oil spill hadn't happened. President Obama was calling for increased offshore oil production. Well, the White House's National Commission on the BP Deepwater Horizon Spill and Offshore Drilling remembers March, and its wants to know more.
During round one of the commission's hearings, its chairmen probed the Obama administration on its focus on the environment while it pushed for increased offshore drilling prior to the Gulf oil spill.
The head of the White House’s Council on Environmental Quality, Nancy Sutley, testified that the Obama administration did not consult her agency about the potential environmental impacts of the president’s plans.
“We weren’t asked and wouldn’t expect to be asked ahead of time whether they should [drill]," said Sutley. She added that she didn't expect her organization to be consulted on "what level of environmental analysis is appropriate for the kinds of planning and decisions that result from that March announcement.”
So the chairwoman of the White House's Council on Environmental Quality not only wasn't asked, but wasn't planning on being asked. At least everyone is on the same page here.
Oil spill commission co-chair, former senator and former Florida Gov. Bob Graham, couldn't believe his ears. “If you are developing a policy to expand offshore oil and gas exploration to the extent that the president announced,” Graham began, “consultation with the agency with responsibility for oceans management and regulation and your overall umbrella agency, the Council for Environmental Quality, should be two of the people on the consultation list.”
The commission’s other co-chairman, William Reilly, seemed equally surprised and perplexed that the Obama administration rushed to judgment. "I'm disappointed that CEQ particularly, which is in the heart of the executive office of the president, was not involved, which seems to go directly to the heart of its responsibility," said Reilly.