Obama’s Spill Commission: Just Window Dressing?

Let our journalists help you make sense of the noise: Subscribe to the Mother Jones Daily newsletter and get a recap of news that matters.

The New York Times has a piece today looking at the special commission that President Obama put together to assess the Gulf disaster. The commission is supposed to assess what happened on the Deepwater Horizon and establish guidelines for how offshore drilling should proceed in the future. This part caught my eye, however, with remarks from commission co-chair William Reilly:

The investigative panel is not charged with determining whether offshore oil development can be conducted safely; rather, its mission is to show how it can resume with greater safeguards.

“The president was clear,” Mr. Reilly said. “He was not inviting us to revise his energy policy. He said he was much more concerned to look ahead than look backward.”

In other words, don’t expect the commission to recommend a revision of the Obama adminstration’s plan to expand offshore oil and gas development.

Call me crazy, but I think we might be missing a step here. Shouldn’t the purpose of this commission be to first evaluate if offshore development can be done safely, and then, if it can be, to then figure out all the safeguards that need to be in place to prevent future BP-like catastrophes?

Perhaps I shouldn’t be too surprised to hear these remarks from Reilly in particular; he has significant ties to the oil industry. But maybe the rest of the spill commission, an impressive group collectively, will have more to say on that.

There are some other concerns raised about the commission in the Times piece. For one, it doesn’t have any staff or budget yet, and probably won’t convene its first meeting until mid-July. (The White House has asked Congress to pony up $15 million for the panel, which also hasn’t happened yet.) The commission also lacks subpoena power right now, though some members of Congress want to pass a bill to grant it that authority.


Headshot of Editor in Chief of Mother Jones, Clara Jeffery

It sure feels that way to me, and here at Mother Jones, we’ve been thinking a lot about what journalism needs to do differently, and how we can have the biggest impact.

We kept coming back to one word: corruption. Democracy and the rule of law being undermined by those with wealth and power for their own gain. So we're launching an ambitious Mother Jones Corruption Project to do deep, time-intensive reporting on systemic corruption, and asking the MoJo community to help crowdfund it.

We aim to hire, build a team, and give them the time and space needed to understand how we got here and how we might get out. We want to dig into the forces and decisions that have allowed massive conflicts of interest, influence peddling, and win-at-all-costs politics to flourish.

It's unlike anything we've done, and we have seed funding to get started, but we're looking to raise $500,000 from readers by July when we'll be making key budgeting decisions—and the more resources we have by then, the deeper we can dig. If our plan sounds good to you, please help kickstart it with a tax-deductible donation today.

Thanks for reading—whether or not you can pitch in today, or ever, I'm glad you're with us.

Signed by Clara Jeffery

Clara Jeffery, Editor-in-Chief

payment methods

We Recommend