Scientists Get Seats on Oil Spill Commission

Two prominent scientists will serve on the presidential commission tasked with investigating the causes of the Deepwater Horizon accident and recommending ways to deal with future oil spills.

Cherry Murray, the dean of Harvard School of Engineering and Applied Sciences, is a condensed matter physicist who has also had high-level leadership roles at Lucent Technologies and Lawrence Livermore National Laboratory. Donald Boesch of the University of Maryland Center for Environmental Science has broad experience in coastal ecoystems, including the impact of oil drilling.

The commission will suggest ways to lower the chances of future oil spills and how to better mitigate damage from spills that do happen, including changing laws or regulations to improve oversight of drilling practices. A final report is due within 6 months.

The commission, created on 21 May by executive order, will be led by former Senator Bob Graham (D–FL) and former administrator of the Environmental Protection Agency William Reilly. The White House announced the other members of the team yesterday. In addition to Boesch and Murray, they are:

  • Frances Beinecke, President of the Natural Resources Defense Council in Washington, D.C.
  • Terry Garcia, Executive Vice President for Mission Programs for the National Geographic Society. Garcia was deputy administrator of the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration during the Clinton Administration.
  • Frances Ulmer, Chancellor of the University of Alaska Anchorage. Ulmer served on the Special Committee on the Exxon Valdez Oil Spill Claims Settlement.

For more on the gulf oil spill, see our full coverage.