Documents released to the government panel investigating the Deepwater Horizon explosion and oil leak reveal the White House made a decision not to disclose the worst-case scenario regarding the rate of oil flowing into the Gulf of Mexico.
According to the documents, in late April or early May the White House budget office refused a request by the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) to release the worst-case flow rate figures to the public.
The drilling permit for BP's Macondo oil well show the worst case scenario to be a leak of 6.8 million gallons of oil per day. A week after the blast these numbers were updated to an estimate of 2.7 million to 4.6 million gallons per day. Even though the administration used these figures as a basis for developing its response strategy, it continued to tell the public the flow rate was roughly 210,000 gallons of oil daily -- this number was eventually adjusted.
Although the Obama administration has yet to give a public response to this story, Jerry Miller, head of the White House science office's ocean subcomittee said, "I would very much doubt that anyone would put restrictions on NOAA's ability to articulate factual information."
According to the Washington Post, the documents further state the Obama administration could have handled the situation better:
"The government appears to have taken an overly casual approach to the calculation and release of the 5,000 barrels per day estimate. Putting aside the question of whether the public had a right to know the worst-case discharge figures, disclosure of those estimates, and explanation of their role in guiding the government effort, may have improved public confidence in the response."
The worst oil spill in maritime history, the BP's offshore oil rig explosion and ensuing oil leak killed 11 workers and spewed 206 million gallons of oil into the ocean.
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