WASHINGTON (AP) — President Barack Obama says an independent commission investigating the Gulf oil spill will thoroughly examine the disaster and its causes to ensure that the nation never faces such a catastrophe again.
Obama spoke in the Rose Garden after the group’s first meeting and pledged that necessary changes will be made.
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The president says that if laws are insufficient, they’ll be changed. He says that if government oversight wasn’t tough enough, that will change too. And Obama said if laws were broken, those who were responsible will be prosecuted.
Obama says the leaders of the commission have his support to follow the facts wherever they lead.
The commission’s inquiry will range from the causes of the spill to the safety of offshore oil drilling and the functioning of government agencies that oversee drilling.
The session comes three days after BP LLC said its latest attempt to stop the oil spewing out of a broken well 5,000 feet underwater had failed, and four days after Obama visited coastal Louisiana to assess the situation and assure residents frustrated by the government’s response that he is doing everything possible to fix the well.
Amid concern that the worst oil spill in U.S. history could threaten his presidency, Obama has stepped up his public appearances to demonstrate that he is engaged. He held a White House news conference Thursday, focused almost entirely on the oil spill, and followed that with the Gulf visit on Friday.
Tuesday’s meeting was Obama’s first with the commission since he named it less than two weeks ago.
Obama still must name five members of the commission, which will investigate such issues as what caused the spill, the safety of offshore drilling and operations at the federal agency that grants drilling rights.
A senior administration official said Obama was not expected to announce those names on Tuesday. The official spoke on condition of anonymity because the meeting had not been formally announced.
In the six weeks since, the government estimates that between 19.7 million and 43 million gallons of crude have poured into the Gulf — affecting beaches, wildlife and the local economy and making it the worst spill in U.S. history.
After BP announced Saturday that its latest attempt to stop the oil, known as a “top kill,” had failed, Obama said that disappointing news was “as enraging as it is heartbreaking.”
It was the latest in a series of failed efforts by the British oil company to shut off the oil flow. BP will try again as early as Wednesday when it attempts to put a cap on the leaking well so oil can be siphoned to the surface.