© Chuck Cook / Greenpeace

Almost 3 months after BP’s Deepwater Horizon disaster began its devastation to the Gulf of Mexico, we are finally seeing movement by President Obama to investigate what exactly went wrong after the explosion, what can be done to help the communities affected by this unnecessary disaster and how to make sure it never happens again.

A panel put together by President Obama that is co-chaired by Senator Bob Graham (former two–term governor of Florida) and William K. Reilly (head of the EPA under President Bush), and includes the likes of NRDC’s presidents and the Dean of the Harvard School of Engineering and Applied Sciences (SEAS), will come together over the next few months to try and figure out what wentwrong and how to move forward. They are set to make a recommendation to the President in 6 months, and one can only hope that they will endorse a plan that includes the only thing that makes sense to make sure this never happens again: an end to offshore drilling.

I’ve been in the Gulf region for the last two weeks helping to document the devastation that the communities are feeling and bearing witness to the impact of the disaster on wildlife. The impacts are worse than the pictures can convey, the scope of the disaster feels wider than any map can show, and the stories are more saddening than any news program can capture.

Yesterday, the first day the commission met, I struggled through a presentation from Kent Wells, Senior Vice President of BP North America, explaining how sorry they were and how hard they were trying to make it better. I listened as Rear Admiral Peter Neffenger, Deputy Incident Commander for the Coast Guard, described the efforts to contain and clean up BP’s disaster and the struggles they are facing.

I also listened to firsthand accounts from the people that are living the reality of this disaster. Sal Sunseri, the owner of P&J Oyster Company, and Jeff Angers, President of the Center for Coastal Conservation, spoke of the impact of the disaster, the unknowns of dispersants being used during the attempt to clean up the Gulf, and how the Gulf will be changed for generations to come. These communities can not measure the impact this disaster will have on them. They can not tell how their cultures will be impacted or when life will return to what can be considered normal.

I was back this morning as the commission heard from federal government officials on the status of the cleanup efforts, from local elected officials on their communities, and from local leaders about ecological impacts. All this was followed by a 2 hour period for public comment. Stay tuned, I’ll have more updates.

-- Jess