Suppressing Oil Spill Science

The AP and NYT report on draft reports from National Commission on the BP Deepwater Horizon Oil Spill and Offshore Drilling critical of the federal government’s response to the spill.  Among other things, the reports accuse Administration officials of suppressing and misrepresenting scientific assessments of the spill and its potential consequences.

From the AP:

The Obama administration blocked efforts by government scientists to tell the public just how bad the Gulf oil spill could become and committed other missteps that raised questions about its competence and candor during the crisis, according to a commission appointed by the president to investigate the disaster. . .

Citing interviews with government officials, the report reveals that in late April or early May, the White House budget office denied a request from NOAA to make public its worst-case estimate of how much oil could spew from the blown-out well. . . .

The report shows “the political process was in charge and science really does not have the role that was touted,” said Christopher D’Elia, dean of environmental studies at Louisiana State University.

From the NYT:

In August, top administration officials said that 75 percent of the oil had evaporated, dissolved or been collected, implying that their efforts had been largely successful and that ecological damage had been limited. Carol Browner, the White House coordinator for energy and climate change, declared on Aug. 4: “I think it’s also important to note that our scientists have done an initial assessment and more than three-quarters of the oil is gone. The vast majority of the oil is gone.”

But the commission staff members said the government’s own data did not support such sweeping conclusions, which were later scaled back. A number of respected independent researchers have concluded that as much as half of the spilled oil remains suspended in the water or buried on the seafloor and in coastal sludge. And it will be some time before scientists can paint an accurate picture of the ecological damage.

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