Environment Forum

from Tales from the Trail:

White House commission wades into “Deep Water”

OILSPILL-BP/COMMISSIONThe great thing about presidential commissions is that they can soberly consider complicated matters and then offer unvarnished reports on what to do. The tough part is when that information rockets around Washington, as occurred after a White House commission issued its final report on the BP disaster in the Gulf of Mexico.

The "Deep Water" report, apparently titled in reference to the doomed BP Deepwater Horizon rig, blames the deadly blowout and oil spill on government and industry complacency, and recommends more regulation of offshore drilling and a new independent safety agency. But as my colleague Ayesha Rascoe reports, the commission lacks the authority to establish drilling policies or punish companies.

Within minutes of the report's release, and even as commission co-chair William Reilly was bragging about bringing the report in on time and under budget, interest groups started the PR barrage, with industry critical and environmental outfits largely complimentary. Two Democratic members of Congress said they'd introduce legislation to implement the commission's recommendations.

Will that legislation go anywhere? Industry analysts are doubtful. To get an idea of how much action can be prompted by White House panels, it's useful to take a look at two previous ones.

OILSPILL-BP/COMMISSIONThe 911 Commission (formally called "The National Commission on Terrorist Attacks Upon the United States") was perhaps the ultimate in gracefully delivering its hard findings: "... on that September day we were unprepared.  We did not grasp the magnitude of a threat that had been gathering over time. As we detail in our report, this was a failure of policy, management, capability, and – above all – a failure of imagination."

The quest to put solar power back on the White House

betterbill

Bill McKibben, founder of the green group 350.org, is on a quest to convince President Barack Obama to put solar panels back on the roof of the White House.

He’s at the end of a journey to Washington from Maine in a van fired by biodiesel carrying one of the 32 panels Jimmy Carter unveiled in 1979 during the first press conference on the White House roof.

Also in the van are students from Unity College, which got the the panels some time after President Ronald Reagan, no fan of alternative energy, had workers remove the panels during “roof repairs” in 1986.

from Tales from the Trail:

The First Draft: Could Obama’s Olympic sprint be a preview of a Copenhagen climate trip?

THAILAND/OK, so President Barack Obama's lightning jaunt to Copenhagen last week was less than successful. Even with Oprah along, the Cheerleader-in-Chief couldn't clinch the deal for Chicago to host the 2016 Olympics. It happens.

But now that he knows the way to Denmark, might the American president consider arguing the U.S. case at international climate meetings in Copenhagen in December? The White House said he might, if other heads of state showed up.

"Right now you've got a meeting that's set up for a level not at the head of state level," presidential spokesman Robert Gibbs told reporters on Air Force One last week. "If it got switched, we would certainly look at coming."

Oceans away! U.S. makes federal stab at ocean policy

The seven seas get a single U.S. approach in a draft federal plan for oceans released on Thursday (and dated Sept. 10, when it was given to the prez). The report is a response to President Obama’s request for a plan and says a new National Ocean Council should use ecosystem management to take on the task. Previous efforts have been focused on solving individual problems — saving fisheries, stopping water pollution — which did not always match.

“This is the first time they have declared their intention to adopt a new way of managing the oceans, one that puts a priority on the health of the marine ecosystem, from which all the other benefits flow,” said Chris Mann, director of the Pew Charitable Trust’s campaign for healthy oceans.

Goals include addressing changing conditions in the Arctic, reacting to climate change and ocean acidification and land practices that affect water.

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