U.S. Senator Jeanne Shaheen (D-NH), along with sixteen Senate colleagues, today introduced legislation to grant subpoena power to the bipartisan National Commission on the BP Deepwater Horizon Oil Spill and Offshore Drilling, which President Obama created by executive order on May 22. Congress has previously granted subpoena power to presidential commissions investigating national crises, including the Warren Commission and the Three Mile Island Commission. Joining Shaheen on this legislation are Senators John Kerry (D-MA), Dianne Feinstein (D-CA), Byron Dorgan (D-ND), Patty Murray (D-WA), Mary Landrieu (D-LA), Charles Schumer (D-NY), Bill Nelson (D-FL), Bob Menendez (D-NJ), Bob Casey (D-PA), Amy Klobuchar (D-MN), Sheldon Whitehouse (D-RI), Mark Begich (D-AK), Ted Kaufman (D-DE), Michael Bennet (D-CO), Kirsten Gillibrand (D-NY), and Al Franken (D-MN). The Senators strongly believe that the BP Commission must have subpoena power to ensure access to all the evidence it needs to undertake a complete investigation on the causes of the spill and make meaningful recommendations on how to prevent similar disasters. Today, Representatives Lois Capps (D-CA) and Ed Markey (D-MA) plan to introduce similar legislation in the House.
"BP and the other companies responsible for this devastating oil spill must not be allowed to stonewall the American people," said Shaheen. "Subpoena power is absolutely necessary to make sure that all responsible parties provide us with the information and evidence we need in order to prevent an economic and environmental disaster of this magnitude from ever happening again."
"We need to know what went wrong so it never happens again, and that means the President's commission needs the facts and they need access to information when they request it," said Kerry. "As someone who has led investigations of everything from money laundering to the fate of American POW's missing in action, I can tell you that subpoena power is essential. Without it, a commission is just window dressing."
"Taking this action is not only appropriate, it is the responsible thing to do, given the magnitude of this disaster," said Dorgan. "It is also consistent with federal commission investigations that followed previous disasters, such as Three Mile Island. The American people deserve to know the complete facts. Those who caused this disaster to happen must be held fully accountable. Subpoena power is essential to meeting both of those goals."
"We need answers to make sure a disaster like this never happens again, and we can't count on the oil company executives to show up voluntarily to provide them," said Murray. "The Presidential Commission needs this extra legal tool to get to the bottom of this disaster that killed 11 workers and devastated the Gulf of Mexico's environment and economy."
"The White House Commission tasked with investigating this terrible accident must have every available tool to examine what went wrong and recommend appropriate steps to ensure it never happens again," said Landrieu. "Subpoena power will give the Commission the teeth needed to get this job done right so that offshore energy production can resume quickly and safely. The people of the Gulf Coast cannot afford to sit by and wait out any stonewalling by the people responsible for this disaster."
"Oil drilling is never without risk, but if we are going to make it as safe as possible, we need to provide the commission with every tool available to find out what caused the Deepwater Horizon disaster," said Menendez. "Unlike the gush of oil, BP has tightly controlled the flow of information following this spill. The only way to get the information we all need is for the commission to have the power to compel its disclosure."
"BP's behavior so far raises major doubts about its willingness to provide a full accounting of what went wrong," said Casey. "As we witness the continued destruction affecting the livelihood of Gulf residents and the environment, a full and thorough investigation must be conducted."
"As a former prosecutor, I understand that the American people want answers from those responsible for the devastating Gulf oil spill," said Klobuchar. "Providing subpoena power to the President's Commission will ensure that no stone goes unturned and will enable the American people to get the full truth about how and why this disaster occurred."
"Alaskans understand firsthand the damaging results of an oil spill and the importance of getting to the bottom of what caused it," said Begich. "It is vital that we commit all appropriate resources to identifying the cause of this spill and determining recommendations to ensure the safe development of future oil and natural gas reserves. Arming the Presidential Commission with subpoena power will help us accomplish these goals and help the affected communities recover."
"Our investigations must have real teeth with subpoena power that allow us to get to the bottom of this catastrophe," said Gillibrand. "Subpoena power is critical to hold all parties accountable, protect taxpayers and successfully clean up the disaster in the Gulf."