- The Washington Times - Tuesday, June 1, 2010

President Obama on Tuesday vowed that government investigators would conduct a “full and vigorous accounting” of the BP oil disaster and said he has ordered the oil giant to compensate those whose livelihoods have been harmed.

“We have an obligation to investigate what went wrong and to determine what reforms are needed so that we never have to experience a crisis like this again,” Mr. Obama told reporters in the Rose Garden following a meeting with the two co-chairmen of a new government panel that will oversee the probe.

Mr. Obama’s reassurances come days after BP’s latest attempt at capping the gushing well off the coast of Louisiana, known as a “top kill” method, failed. The company is now hoping to lower a dome over the pipe to contain the oil flow until a permanent fix in the form of a relief well can be drilled. That procedure is expected to take until August.

In the meantime, Mr. Obama said, more than 20,000 people in the region are trying to contain and clean up the spewing oil, which has gushed by the millions of gallons since the Deepwater Horizon oil rig exploded on April 20. The incident killed 11 people.

Mr. Obama said Tuesday he has authorized 17,000 additional National Guard members to respond across the four states whose coastlines are being affected.

Echoing remarks he made at a news conference last week, Mr. Obama slammed what he described as a “far-too-cozy” relationship between oil firms and their regulatory agencies. He touted some reforms his administration already has proposed, such as splitting off the licensing authority of the Minerals Mangement Service from its duty to collect drilling royalties, but vowed further action if necessary.

“If oversight was inadequate to enforce these laws, oversight needs to be reformed,” Mr. Obama said. “If our laws were broken, leading to this death and destruction, my solemn pledge is that we will bring those responsible to justice on behalf of the victims of this catastrophe and the people of the Gulf region.”

He has tapped former Florida Sen. Bob Graham and William Reilly, former head of the Environmental Protection Agency, to lead the investigative commission, which will report back with its findings and recommendations in six months. He said he has authorized them to hold public hearings.