Sen. Nelson livid over Gulf spill misinformation

10/07/10 Kate Bradshaw
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A report alleging the federal government blocked worst case estimates of the Gulf oil gusher is bad news for the Obama administration, which is already having trouble with its image. Today that didn’t stop Bill Nelson from blasting its supposed decision to severely downplay the oil flow.

In a conference room overlooking the Downtown St. Petersburg waterfront today, U.S. Senator Bill Nelson is fuming.

Nelson has been one of the harshest critics of BP’s and the government’s response to the Deepwater Horizon oil disaster, which caused hundreds of millions of gallons of crude to flow into the gulf, threatened delicate coastal and marine ecosystems, and crippled already-ailing gulf state economies. He says it’s easy to see why BP would have wanted the public to have no clue as to the severity of the gusher.

But the federal government?

By early May, the official oil spill estimate was 210,000 gallons per day. That ballooned over subsequent weeks and months. Meanwhile, the Coast Guard and the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration reportedly had estimates ranging from 2.7 to 4.6 million gallons each day. Senator Nelson says the revelation that the White House Office of Management and Budget kept NOAA from releasing those numbers to the public is bad news for an administration already dealing with severe image problems.

Nelson was meeting University of South Florida scientists at the St. Pete campus after a two-day oil disaster conference at the Tradewinds on St. Pete Beach. William Hogarth is Dean of USF St. Pete’s College of Marine Science.

Hogarth says he hates to say “I told you so,” but university and scientific nonprofit research teams had been calling it as they see it the whole time.

The public finally did get word of the full scope of the disaster later in the summer, but Hogarth says the catastrophe could have been dealt with differently had accurate numbers been released earlier on.

He says he hopes the news of the administration’s failure to disclose an accurate estimate of the oil flow will at the very least result in more transparency in the future.

The Obama Administration has rejected the report accusing it of low-balling the extent of the oil disaster and conducted a generally poor response effort. White House Spokesperson Robert Gibbs said the White House was as forthcoming as it could be with the information it had, when it had it.

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