Obama gets "drilled" on his drilling commission

On May 21 by Executive Order Obama created a commission to investigate the BP oil spill. Obama named this commission the National Commission on the BP Deepwater Horizon Oil Spill and Offshore Drilling.

However, what is unusual about Obama’s appointees? This seven-member commission contains not a single expert on drilling or petroleum engineering and is instead loaded with anti-oil and antidrilling activists such as Natural Resources Defense Council President Frances Beinecke and former Florida Senator Bob Graham (D). The other co-chair besides Graham is William Reilly, a Republican who headed the EPA under former President George H.W. Bush. Reilly has taken a leave of absence from oil giant ConocoPhillips for the duration.

Frances Beinecke is particularly noteworthy because she is the President of the Natural Resources Defense Council, United States. According to the website:

Under Ms. Beinecke’s leadership, the organization has launched a new strategic campaign that sharply focuses NRDC’s efforts on curbing global warming, moving America beyond oil, reviving the world’s oceans, saving endangered wild places, stemming the tide of toxic chemicals, and accelerating the greening of China.

Other members of the commission are:

  • Donald Boesch, a biological oceanographer who has studied the long-term environmental impact of off-shore drilling in the Gulf.
  • Terry Garcia, a VP at the National Geographic Society. After the Exxon Valdez accident his job was to bring the environment back up to speed in Prince William Sound where the spill occurred.
  • Cherry Murray, condensed matter and materials physics at Harvard University and
  • Frances Ulmer, a board member of the Alaska Nature Conservancy. She also has a law degree from the University of Wisconsin.

Looks like the deck is pretty stacked with environmentalists. And several senators noticed this very same thing. Two in particular blasted Obama about his commission picks, those being Sens. John Barrasso (R-Wyo.) and Robert Bennett (R-Utah).

“The president said he wanted an objective look. Well the commission’s background and expertise doesn’t really include an oil or a drilling expert, so people in the Gulf, people across the country are wondering about the administration’s goals. Is it really about making offshore energy exploration safer, or is it shutting down our offshore and American oil and gas,”

Said Senator Barrasso to Interior Secretary Ken Salazar.

“When they see that the president of the Natural Resources Defense Council [Beinecke] is one of the seven members of the commission, and this group has just intervened as a defendant in the court case wanting to continue the moratorium, it is no surprise that the American people are asking questions,” he added.

Bennett also questioned the credentials of Obama’s picks, Beinecke in particular. Barrasso has offered a proposal that a bi-partisan commission be established with ten members, five from each Party. Obama would name the chair and Congressional leaders would select the vice-chair and the additional eight members. Barrasso is modeling this commission after the 9/11 commission and states this is needed to provide a

“truly unbiased bipartisan review”

of offshore drilling in the wake of the BP disaster. And as a “surprise” several Democratic senators have voiced concerns as well, namely Mary Landrieu (LA) whose state is hard-hit by the spill. And Senator Jean Shaheen (D-NH):

“If there are questions about the views of the presidential commission … then I would err on the side in saying let’s get another point of view on the issue.”

Obama placed a moratorium on deep-water drilling in the Gulf in late May resulting in millions of lost dollars and thousands of jobs in the Gulf region. A federal judge has since overturned this ban. Please take a look at the Institute for Energy Research’s statement and the judge’s opinion. In true-Obama style, he appealed. As of the writing of this post the Fifth Circuit of Appeals has upheld the judge’s ruling at least until August 30. Stay tuned…