As millions watched the live feed of British Patroleum's attempt Wednesday to plug the gushing well in the Gulf of Mexico, anger and frustration mounted, nowhere more than among Gulf residents. It could take two days to see if this attempt to stanch the oil flow succeeds.
Meanwhile, Floridians got a preview of what may await our shores as the oil began inundating Louisiana's coast in earnest this week.
Everyone wants to know how this happened and what can be done to make sure a similar environmental and economic catastrophe is prevented in the future.
To that end President Obama made a good call in tapping former Florida governor and U.S. senator Bob Graham to co-chair the bipartisan Presidential Oil Spill Investigation Commission. Mr. Graham, a statesman with a strong environmental record, and his counterpart, former EPA administrator William K. Reilly, are well-qualified to lead an investigation into the cause of the spill, the safety of off-shore drilling and how to effectively clean up the Gulf.
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Preliminary investigations have uncovered operating problems before the well exploded April 20, killing 11 men. The commission has six months to investigate and make recommendations for improving safety in oil and gas production.
The commission will also scrutinize the federal government's lax oversight of offshore drilling.
The regulator, the Minerals Management Service, has a history of dysfunction and coziness with Big Oil.
In 2008, the Interior Department's inspector general report offered a scathing assessment of MMS. It found "an organization culture lacking acceptance of government ethical standards." Ethical lapses resulted in a sexual scandal, in MMS employees accepting gifts from Big Oil and failing to collect millions of dollars in royalties.
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