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October 6th, 2010
Grijalva Highlights Oil Spill Commission Findings That White House Officials Discouraged Publication of Spill Size Estimates

Washington, D.C.– Rep. Raúl M. Grijalva today highlighted a newly released report by the National Commission on the BP Deepwater Horizon Oil Spill and Offshore Drilling indicating that White House officials directed federal agencies not to publicize estimates of the size of the Deepwater Horizon oil spill, an issue Grijalva raised in Sept. 29 letters asking for information from three agencies that have been studying the spill. The new report, Grijalva said, “raises serious concerns about undue interference with the public’s right to know what happened in the Gulf and what the impact will be for the economy.”

As reported today by the Washington Post:

One of the commission papers said that the [White House] Office of Management and Budget denied a request by the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration [NOAA] to release “worst-case discharge figures” in late April or early May, weeks before the dire dimensions of the spill were publicly known.

Instead, while outside scientists were saying that the flow rate was very high, the government stood by its April 28 estimate that 5,000 barrels of oil a day were leaking from the well, about one-tenth of the final figure. The commission report says this number was an extremely rough estimate, taken from research by a federal scientist who does not appear to have expertise in estimating deep-sea oil flows.

Grijalva’s recent letters asked the Coast Guard, NOAA and the U.S. Geological Survey for documents and draft analyses used to support their joint announcement in August that approximately 74 percent of the spilled oil had disappeared or was no longer an environmental threat. That official estimate was never peer reviewed, contrary to official assurances, and Grijalva has said the risk to the Gulf “should have been taken more seriously by the responsible agencies from the beginning.”

Of the new Commission report explaining the White House’s involvement, Grijalva said there “was never any reason for the White House to get involved in this way in a purely scientific issue. The question all along has been the public’s right to know how much oil was spilling into the Gulf of Mexico, what that means for the economy – which has been devastated – and how BP and the government will respond. The release of this paper only reinforces my interest in how these agencies will respond to my requests for information. I look forward to seeing exactly how these inaccurate numbers were prepared and released to the public, and I’m sorry to hear that the White House asserted its authority on behalf of misinformation in this case.”

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