US commission probes Gulf oil spill

An independent commission set up by US President Barack Obama kicked off a two-day meeting in Washington Monday to probe the massive oil spill from a wrecked BP-leased rig in the Gulf of Mexico.

The commission — which hears from the US-pointman for the crisis Thad Allen and Interior Department Secretary Ken Salazar, among others — will probe the use of controversial chemical dispersants to combat the spill, government decisions made during the disaster and the US moratorium on deepwater drilling.

The probe, said former senator and commission co-chair Bob Graham in opening the meeting, hopes to “inform future offshore drilling efforts, the response to spills and damaged ecosystems.”

Fellow co-chair William Reilly said the panel sought to understand how the United States got to the point “where the need to improvise was so great” during the 87-day effort to stem the flow of oil gushing out of the Macondo well in the Gulf of Mexico.

It is difficult, he said, “to make the case we were well prepared.”

An estimated 4.9 million barrels of oil gushed out of the well off the coast of Louisiana after it was ruptured by an April 20 explosion aboard BP’s Deepwater Horizon drilling rig that killed 11 workers. About 800,000 barrels were siphoned to ships at the surface.

Hundreds of miles of coastline from Texas to Florida were sullied, killing wildlife and devastating key local industries such as tourism and fishing.

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