Report claims WH squelched worst-case Gulf spill estimates

posted at 10:12 am on October 7, 2010 by Ed Morrissey

Initial glimpses of a new report from an Inspector General on the administration’s response to the Gulf spill focused on the failure to take it seriously in the opening days of the crisis.  Today, McClatchy escalates the pressure by reporting claims that the Obama White House silenced government scientists that had far worse estimates of the potential spill.  That decision apparently came at “a high level”:

Government scientists wanted to tell Americans early on how bad the BP oil spill could get, but the White House denied their request to make the worst-case models public, a report by the staff of the national panel investigating the spill said Wednesday. …

The first report said that the “decision to withhold worst-case discharge figures” may have been made at a high level. It said that in late April or early May, the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration “wanted to make public some of its long-term, worst-case discharge models for the Deepwater Horizon spill, and requested approval to do so from the White House’s Office of Management and Budget. Staff was told that the Office of Management and Budget denied NOAA’s request.” …

The report noted that retired Coast Guard Adm. Thad Allen, the government’s top official on the disaster, and other officials said in news conferences that the government prepared for a worst-case scenario from the beginning, and didn’t base decisions about what equipment would be needed on the early estimates of 1,000 to 5,000 barrels a day.

However, it said, the government withheld the figures of what “worst-case” meant.

The spill figures in the early days of the crisis gave some cover for the White House to focus on other issues.  During the period from late April, when the crisis began, to late May, when Obama began focusing on the crisis, the President spent much more time talking about the Arizona immigration-enforcement law than the Gulf spill.  That strategy intended on driving a wedge between supporters of the bill and Hispanic voters in advance of an already tough-looking midterm election.  By silencing the worst-case scenarios, the White House would have been able to continue that strategy and keep Obama’s attack on Arizona at the top of the headlines.

It also served another purpose.  As we saw, the task of capping the well turned out to be incredibly complicated, a task for which the US and BP turned out to be ill-prepared.  More focus on the crisis might have sped resources to the site, which the White House for some reason neglected to do, especially with skimmers that were available but not called to the site until weeks later.  However, it also would have highlighted the lack of preparation and coordination much earlier in the crisis and kept the spotlight on the shortcomings for much longer.

The report shows that from April 23rd onward, the administration operated with the knowledge that the spill could be spewing oil at a rate of 64,000 to 110,000 barrels a day, and yet for weeks hinted at only 1,000 or 5,000 as a top number.  Whatever the reasons, the point is made clear that the White House wasn’t terribly honest about the crisis and its response.  Married up to the earlier Rolling Stone exposé on the Gulf crisis and its response, it paints a damning picture of an administration far out of its depth and desperate to cover up that fact.


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This should send those approval numbers down several more notches.

pilamaye on October 7, 2010 at 10:15 AM

Most open administration evah??

Oil Can on October 7, 2010 at 10:15 AM

Surprised?

sandee on October 7, 2010 at 10:15 AM

Look at what’s going on with the DOJ right now. This is not surprising at all. Come on, November 2nd!

kingsjester on October 7, 2010 at 10:17 AM

If only they could have squeezed in a “women and minorities hurt most” angle, we woulda heard all about it.

Akzed on October 7, 2010 at 10:19 AM

B+ for transparency!

percysunshine on October 7, 2010 at 10:19 AM

They were all over the place on this over at huffpo. I was surprised at how they were defending him. Isn’t this what they screamed about Bush for 8 years, the cover-ups? What a double standard.

wi farmgirl on October 7, 2010 at 10:22 AM

The real problem is that this bunch is so void of really knowing what is going on, while worrying about PR, that PR constantly slaps them in the face.

He could have easily combated the claims of there not being foreign flagged vessels working on the spill when they were made. Many were actually working. But they were too dumb to capitalize.

I would seriously discount the claims made by NOAA on the spill info. Any informed intelligent person would too.

Kermit on October 7, 2010 at 10:22 AM

No sheit Sherlock and they banned oil drilling too, over the objections of the FEDERAL COURTS!

Hows’ that Oil Drilling comin since a judge threw out the ban?

Throw out the LYIN Demrats ALL OF EM!

dhunter on October 7, 2010 at 10:24 AM

Most transparently lying administration ever.

Combining the worst qualities of Nixon and Carter in one!

rbj on October 7, 2010 at 10:25 AM

kingsjester on October 7, 2010 at 10:17 AM

Nice blog, dood.

Akzed on October 7, 2010 at 10:25 AM

“scientists” It is petroleum engineers that deal with this and they don’t live in Washington nor work for the media.
People at halliburton could figger this out.

seven on October 7, 2010 at 10:27 AM

Cover Up ?? .. or a War on Science, by gagging NOAA scientists.

J_Crater on October 7, 2010 at 10:29 AM

Meanwhile, the moratorium on drilling continues, and we give lots of money to Mexico to drill in the gulf. Strip jobs here, and give em to Mexico.

Now here’s a president concerned about jobs, and the citizens who pay his paycheck. Can’t this be considered treason? If it’s unsafe to drill, why in the he!! are we letting Mexico, China, and Venezuela come in and drill?

capejasmine on October 7, 2010 at 10:29 AM

White House lied….Birdies died….or something.

ted c on October 7, 2010 at 10:31 AM

You all don’t remember. Obama did very little the first weeks other than rapid deployment of large ground troups called lawyers. The first to arrive were attorneys. The Leaders were on vacation.

seven on October 7, 2010 at 10:32 AM

They were all over the place on this over at huffpo. I was surprised at how they were defending him. Isn’t this what they screamed about Bush for 8 years, the cover-ups? What a double standard.

wi farmgirl on October 7, 2010 at 10:22 AM

Huffpo commenters are useless. They can only think, and focus one item at a time. They don’t see the bigger picture. They’re comments on Nancy Pelosi’s social security ruse, are a hoot. I’ve never seen such insipid thinking. While Pelosi and her goons rob SS, they put her on a pedestal as thinking forward. They really have no clue the damage that’s been, or being done. To all of us!!!

capejasmine on October 7, 2010 at 10:32 AM

Nice blog, dood.

Akzed on October 7, 2010 at 10:25 AM

Dooood…thanks!

kingsjester on October 7, 2010 at 10:33 AM

This administration said nothing for weeks about the oil spill. They stonewalled the entire country. Then BO appeared, made some statements, threatened to “Kick Ass”, did a photo op pretending to pick up a few oil balls on a e beach, placed a ban on drilling which killed thousands of jobs and blabbered more without doing anything constructive to assist Jindal.

Once BO extorted $20 Billion out of BP he behaved as though the entire incident was over. The administration basically went silent again. BO acted as though his job was done with regard to the spill.

The manner in which president putz dealt with the oil spill is a perfect example of the Chicago Way.

Cody1991 on October 7, 2010 at 10:35 AM

Salazar will retire soon..:)

Dire Straits on October 7, 2010 at 10:35 AM

Heard about this story yesterday. Imagine the outrage from the media and the Left if the Bush Administration had done the same thing? He would have been impeached.

Del Dolemonte on October 7, 2010 at 10:37 AM

Had this been a U.S.-controlled rig, instead of BP, the administration would have jumped all over it from Day 1, since it would have fit Rahm’s “Never let a crisis go to waste” dictum, by allowing the Obama Administration to demonize U.S. oil companies as part of a move to gain more control over them (even to point of talking nationalization).

The fact that the rig was controlled by BP, and the fact that BP had been the oil company most willing to go along with the Democrats’ climate change/cap-and-trade fraud, is why the White House tried to downplay the spill and hide the data under the bed for so long, since nationalizing a British-owned company would have been a bit of a sticky wicket, even for this White House.

jon1979 on October 7, 2010 at 10:37 AM

Today, McClatchy escalates the pressure by reporting claims that the Obama White House silenced government scientists that had far worse estimates of the potential spill. That decision apparently came at “a high level”:

And we will get the same reaction from the selectively outraged liberals on crushing free speech that we are getting from them on Obama’s war policies,his corrupt DOJ on voting rights ,and his dedication to the lobbyist on the Hill……

………….nothing…….it’s off to the coffee shop once again for the self righteous liberals.

But wait….hey look….over there……I think I see a witch from Delaware!!!!

Baxter Greene on October 7, 2010 at 10:38 AM

Daddy..Have you plugged the hole yet?!?..:)

Dire Straits on October 7, 2010 at 10:38 AM

Whatever the reasons, the point is made clear that the White House wasn’t terribly honest about the crisis and its response.

Are we talking about the state of the economy or an oil spill??? I’m soooo confused………..

Rovin on October 7, 2010 at 10:38 AM

He would have been impeached.

Del Dolemonte on October 7, 2010 at 10:37 AM

Somebody in the Obie group is going down..:)

Dire Straits on October 7, 2010 at 10:39 AM

Obama’s Katrina.

coldwarrior on October 7, 2010 at 10:40 AM

Are we talking about the state of the economy or an oil spill??? I’m soooo confused………..

Rovin on October 7, 2010 at 10:38 AM

Nice post!..You can now apply for your waiver..:)

Dire Straits on October 7, 2010 at 10:41 AM

They transparently lied.

albill on October 7, 2010 at 10:43 AM

Rush is going to have a ball with this..:)

Dire Straits on October 7, 2010 at 10:43 AM

They transparently lied.

albill on October 7, 2010 at 10:43 AM

Well you know the saying..Lies..Damn Lies and Statistics..:)

Dire Straits on October 7, 2010 at 10:44 AM

kingsjester on October 7, 2010 at 10:17 AM
Nice blog, dood.

Akzed on October 7, 2010 at 10:25 AM

+1

I’ll be back.

fossten on October 7, 2010 at 10:45 AM

fossten on October 7, 2010 at 10:45 AM

Thank you.

kingsjester on October 7, 2010 at 10:48 AM

For once, all of Shep’s hand wringing and histrionics were justified.

kingsjester on October 7, 2010 at 10:49 AM

Who really cares what the “worse case” estimate was?

We needed to know what was ACTUALLY leaking.

crosspatch on October 7, 2010 at 10:53 AM

Why is anyone surprised? This is the same administration that said that most of the oil just “disappeared” as if by magic. They honestly expected us to swallow that garbage for crying out loud.

mizflame98 on October 7, 2010 at 11:02 AM

Gulf spill? Yeah, Barry didn’t handle it well, but it’s down the memory hole now. Most people probably couldn’t care, less. It is just a bunch of small people, anyway.

Christien on October 7, 2010 at 11:07 AM

Coverup?

“What did you know, and when did you know it.”

davidk on October 7, 2010 at 11:20 AM

Do you think they figured out you don’t fill ships with water and expect them to still float?

tarpon on October 7, 2010 at 11:31 AM

Yea, the “transparent” administration probably also made sure Costner’s testimony before Congress slamming their response to the spill never got much notice either. Spin it, Mr.
President, SPIN IT.

scalleywag on October 7, 2010 at 11:57 AM

While I’m eager for any news that takes a shot at this administration. As much as I’d like to, I can’t get on board with this criticism.

The issue seems to be that they didn’t publicize the absolute worst case, pie in the sky, disaster scenario. . .

Good.

As it is, almost all of the hyped danger about the spill turned out to be overblown.

The Mississippi dumps the total spill volume into the area every 3 to 4 days and dumps the amount of detergents (Corexit) into the are about every 13 minutes.

The oil spill has created an explosion in the local microbe population (microbes make up 90% of the ocean’s biomass). This local explosion of microbes in one of the ocean’s dead zones has been a boon for local amphipods and other small organisms, shrimp in turn feed on these, then fish on shrimp and so on and so on.

The reason that Tuna prices have been so good this summer is because the Gulf Tuna schools came back to the gulf to feed on the bounty this event created just south of the McCondo site.

Over a hundred thousand specimins of shrimp, crabs and finfish have been collected by LSU, Ole Miss, Auburn and UofM and after blasting the samples apart down to the individual molecules, ZERO, let me repeat that ZERO samples have returned a detectable level of petrochemical contamination.

THE ONLY contaminated samples found so far were found by the “olfactory examiners”. If you were paying me upwards of 12K a month to sniff fish and I knew that if I didn’t smell anything that 12K a month job would go away, you betcha I’d find one or two smell fish.

OIL IS THE BASIS OF THE GULF/MARINE FOOD WEB!

Always has been. Always will be.

Oil in the water is what makes the Gulf of Mexico and the Gulf of Alaska such excellent fisheries (1 and 2 in the world depending on how you rank them).

Not publicizing the worst case doom scenarios of yankee scientists coming down the gulf for the first times in their lives is probably the only thing this administration has done so far.

One more thing. . .look at the info they have put out about this. Fearmongering about oxygen levels in the area being 200 times lower that “normal”. Well, oceanic normals for oxygen levels are always about 200 times higher than dissolved levels of oxygen in the Mississippi Dead Zone.

Low oxygen levels in the MDZ have nothing to do with oil, they have to do with the 1.6 million gallons of fresh water dumped into the area by the Mississippi ever SECOND.

Once again – Oil is the basis for the Gulf of Mexico food web.

Jason Coleman on October 7, 2010 at 12:13 PM

To clarify –

In 3 or 4 days time, the Mississippi dumps about the same amount of oil into the area as the entire Deepwater spill. That’s being really simplistic, because the refined petrochemicals that wash down the Mississippi are far far far more potentially dangerous than raw crude from underground.

Corexit is just a brand name for very common detergents in a proprietary blend. All of the same detergents are found in hand soap, laundry detergents and other cleaners and degreasers. In just a few minutes, an equivalent volume of these detergents to the entire Corexit volume used washes out of the Mississippi.

In one day (and every day), over 100 times more detergents come out of the Mississippi than were applied during the month and a half they were used on the McCondo well.

Jason Coleman on October 7, 2010 at 12:19 PM

Actually surprised someone in the administration was able to stop the others from running with the extreme crisis numbers… seeing that what was predicted was so over-hyped from reality, this is meh… The greens don’t even have credibility with the Chicago crew, they’re just useful idiots in their political plays…

phreshone on October 7, 2010 at 12:24 PM

Daily Kos’s typically insightful coverage of this, http://www.dailykos.com/story/2010/10/6/20501/4480, blames it on “anti-environment conservative” Peter Orszag. Good grief.

Chuckles3 on October 7, 2010 at 12:25 PM

Chuckles3 on October 7, 2010 at 12:25 PM

And Bush…don’t forget he mentioned Bush…

lovingmyUSA on October 7, 2010 at 1:46 PM

Once again – Oil is the basis for the Gulf of Mexico food web.

Jason Coleman on October 7, 2010 at 12:13 PM

Yup… and eating 1000 cranberries an hour will prevent many forms of cancer…
At best, you are disingenuous… .

jerrytbg on October 7, 2010 at 9:33 PM