Oil Spill Commission Calls for Larger Role for Science

Dick writes about Earth and planetary science for Science magazine.

The final report of the presidential oil spill commission released today calls for more science in order to better protect the environment. It details plenty of oil industry hubris and shortcomings in government oversight, but among its recommendations is that Congress and the Department of the Interior should create of a new, independent agency that would have a strong science component.

Housed within the Department of the Interior and endowed with enforcement authority over all aspects of drilling safety offshore, the new agency would include a Leasing and Environmental Science Office that would oversee "environmentally responsible and efficient" development of the outer continental shelf. Conventional and renewable energy development would be included. The office's environmental science division would "provide an important and equitable voice for environmental concerns." That voice tended to be drowned out in Interior's now defunct Minerals Management Service, according to the report.

The report also calls for "better science and greater interagency consultation to improve decision-making." It singles out the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration as deserving a more "robust and formal" role in deciding where drilling should be allowed.

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