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FRONT PAGE CONTRIBUTOR

Obama’s Stacked Deck

It's the Chicago Way.

When President Obama named the members of the National Commission on the BP Deepwater Horizon Oil Spill and Offshore Drilling, he left little to chance.

Although the Executive Order which created the Commission allowed that its membership

… shall be drawn from among distinguished individuals, and may include those with experience in or representing the scientific, engineering, and environmental communities, the oil and gas industry, or any other area determined by the President to be of value to the Commission in carrying out its duties.

… there are two scientists, no engineers, and no real representatives of the oil and gas industry. The panel is primarily made up of lawyers, environmentalists and career politicians.

One of the members is president of the National Resources Defense Council, one of five environmental groups that has filed an appeal to Judge Feldman’s ruling against the deepwater drilling moratorium.

Republican Senators have criticized the makeup of the Commission:

Sen. John Barrasso, R-Wyo., charged the Obama administration with keeping oil and gas drilling experts off its seven-member commission in favor of people who philosophically oppose offshore exploration. …

Barrasso said the panel’s makeup defied Obama’s assertion that he wants an independent review of the oil spill.

“The commission’s background and expertise doesn’t really include an oil or drilling expert, so … people across the country are wondering about the administration’s goals,” Barrasso said. “Is it really about making offshore energy exploration safer? Or is it about shutting down our offshore and American oil and gas?”

Interior Secretary Ken Salazar cries foul:

[The members of the Commission are] “very distinguished people … who will transcend partisan politics and ideology”  …

Salazar dismissed the senators’ criticism.

“What is wrong is the playing of politics with this issue,” Salazar said. “This is an issue of a national crisis.”

Mr. Secretary, I agree that it’s wrong to play politics with this issue. The public deserves an impartial panel, one with sufficient diversity of experience and opinion that its conclusions do not appear to be preordained.

Here’s a quick summary of the panel’s makeup:

Co-chairs

  • Lawyer, career politician and anti-offshore drilling advocate.
  • Lawyer, former EPA chief and Chairman of World Wildlife Fund.

 Executive Director

  • Law professor, environmental lawyer and author.

 Members

  • President of the NRDC.
  • Physicist and Dean of Harvard School of Engineering and Applied Science.
  • Lawyer and career politician.
  • Marine scientist and ocean policy advocate.
  • Lawyer and environmental advocate.

And here’s more detail:

  • Bob Graham, Co-chairman – Career politician; former Democratic Governor and Senator from Florida and famous opponent of offshore drilling. Education: University of Florida, Harvard Law School. (Source.) 
  • William K. Reilly, Co-chairman – Former Administrator of the Environmental Protection Agency under the first President Bush. Reilly is Chairman Emeritus of the World Wildlife Fund, and is a director of DuPont, ConocoPhillips (since stepped aside), the National Geographic Society, and the Packard Foundation. Reilly is founding partner of Aqua International Partners, L.P., a private equity fund dedicated to investing in companies engaged in water and renewable energy. Education: Yale University (B.A./history), Harvard Law School. Masters in urban planning from Columbia. (Source.)
  • Richard Lazarus, Executive Director – Professor of Law at the Georgetown University Law Center, where he teaches Environmental Law, Natural Resources Law, Supreme Court Advocacy, and Torts. Professor Lazarus has represented the United States, state and local governments, and environmental groups in the United States Supreme Court in 37 cases and has presented oral argument in 13 of those cases. He most recently served as counsel of record for environmental respondents Riverkeeper et al in Entergy v. Riverkeeper, argued in December 2008. He has published two books, The Making of Environmental Law, and Environmental Law Stories. Education:  B.S./Chemistry, B.A/Economics from the University of Illinois, Harvard Law School. (Source.)
  • Ms. Frances G. Beinecke,  Member president of the Natural Resources Defense Council, where she has spent her entire career: Under Frances’s leadership, the organization has launched a new strategic campaign that sharply focuses NRDC’s efforts on curbing global warming, moving America beyond oil, reviving the world’s oceans, saving endangered wild places, stemming the tide of toxic chemicals and accelerating the greening of China.Education: Yale College, B.A., 1971; Yale School of Forestry and Environmental Studies, M.S., 1974. (Source.)
  • Dr. Cherry A. Murray is the Dean of the Harvard School of Engineering and Applied Sciences. She is also the current President of the American Physical Society and Chair of the Division of Engineering and Physical Science of the National Research Council. Professor Murrary has published more than 70 papers in peer-reviewed journals and holds two patents in near-field optical data storage and optical display technology. Education: B.S./Ph.D. in physics 1978 from the Massachusetts Institute of Technology. (Source.)
  • Frances “Fran” Ulmer – has spent 30 years in public service at the local, state and national level, including service as the first female Lieutenant Governor of Alaska from 1994 to 2002. Education: bachelor’s degree in economics and political science and a J.D. from the University of Wisconsin Law School. (Source.)
  • Dr. Donald F. Boesch is President of the University of Maryland Center for Environmental and Estuarine Studies (CEES), where he also holds the rank of Professor. He is a science advisor to the Chesapeake Bay Program and to Maryland state agencies and in such diverse regions as Alaska (advisor to the Federal and State trustees on the Exxon Valdez Oil spill), San Francisco Bay, coastal Louisiana, and south Florida. Education: B.S. Biology, Tulane University. Ph.D. Marine Science, College of William and Mary, 1971. (Source.)
  • Terry Garcia - executive vice president for the National Geographic Society. Prior to joining the Society in 1999, Garcia was the assistant secretary of commerce for Oceans and Atmosphere, U.S. Department of Commerce, and deputy administrator (general counsel) of the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration. Garcia also serves on the boards of the Institute for Exploration/Mystic Aquarium and the National Marine Sanctuary Foundation. Education: B.A./International Relations, American University, and the George Washington University Law School. (Source.)

P.S. – It’s not that their Ivy League backgrounds makes them necessarily unqualified for the job; it’s just that there’s lots of us out here who already know what an oil well looks like, who know the difference between a rig and a platform, who live a breathe this stuff every day. Even if our degrees are from cow colleges.

P.P.S. – It would appear that the Times-Picayune agrees with me.

Cross-posted at VladEnBlog.

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