Noel Brinkerhoff, David Wallechinsky
January 26, 2012
Public Employees for Environmental Responsibility (PEER) has accused the Obama administration of deliberately misleading the public about how much oil gushed from the ruptured BP well in the Gulf of Mexico in 2010.
Using the Freedom of Information Act, PEER obtained an email from a top administration official that revealed that the White House was pressuring top government scientists to low-ball the oil flow rate.
In late May 2010, Dr. Marcia McNutt, director of the U.S. Geologic Survey and head of the government’s Flow Rate Technical Group, wrote to scientists who complained about the misleading information coming out of the White House about the crisis.
“I cannot tell you what a nightmare the past two days have been dealing with the communications people at the White House…,” McNutt wrote. “The press release that went out on our results was misleading and was not reviewed by a scientist for accuracy.”
She went on to give examples: “Let me give you a flavor of some of the ‘suggestions’ I was getting from the NIC [National Intelligence Council] and from the communications people at the White House and DOI [Department of the Interior] as recently as yesterday afternoon as to how to ‘simplify’ our bottom line:
From a NIC Admiral: How about just saying that the range of flow rates is 12,000 to 25,000 barrels per day? (No, because the 25,000 is a LOWER bound, not an UPPER bound….)
From a White House communications person: How about saying that several lines of evidence suggest that the flow is 12,000 to 19,000 barrels per day but that the rate could be as high as 25,000 barrels per day? (No, because the 25,000 is a LOWER bound, not an UPPER bound…).”
President Barack Obama’s top aides publically insisted that at worst, about 25,000 barrels of oil a day were spewing from the well. Later, it was revealed that the rate was more than 50,000 barrels a day.