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The Oil Spill Commission held its first meetings this week on Monday and Tuesday at the Hilton Riverside Hotel in New Orleans, Louisiana. The agenda included appearances by federal government officials, representatives from BP North America, local business owners and others. The Commissioners l heard from a variety of panelists regarding the economic impacts of the oil spill on the fishing, tourism, and drilling industries in the region. the Commission is co-chaired by former EPA Adminstrator William K. Reilly, left (with Center President), and Bob Graham, right, a Democrat who also was Florida governor.

Michael Bromwich, left, director of the Bureau of Ocean Energy Management, Regulation and Enforcement (BOE), stated at a meeting of the National Commission on BP Deepwater Horizon Oil Spill and Offshore Drilling (Oil Spill Commission) that a chief reason the Obama administration is extending a ban on deepwater offshore drilling is that oil companies do not know how to contain a spill like the one spewing oil into the Gulf of Mexico right now. Bromwich also noted that the BP spill is consuming response equipment and personnel from across the country, exposing vulnerabilities should deepwater drilling resume.

Bromwich, the new head of the agency (as of June 15) formerly known as the Minerals Management Services, concluded that until improvements are in place, the Department of the Interior does not intend to back away from a ban on deep-water drilling that has angered numerous companies and gulf residents because of its economic impact. Bromwich announced that BOE will hold 12 hearings on deepwater drilling in communities in the Gulf, California and Alaska, before delivering a report by October 31 to Interior Secretary Ken Salazar. (Wash Post, 7/13/2010,)