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Gulf oil spill: Congress wants independent panel with subpoena power

May 6, 2010 |  3:35 pm

On Capitol Hill, a pair of Democratic lawmakers proposed creating an independent commission with subpoena power to investigate the causes of the Deepwater Horizon oil spill in the Gulf of Mexico and to recommend measures to prevent similar disasters. A bipartisan delegation of House members also planned a flyover of the spill Friday and meetings in the gulf. 

"This disaster will be all the more tragic if we fail to learn from it," said Rep. Lois Capps (D-Santa Barbara), sponsoring the legislation with Rep. Edward J. Markey (D-Mass.), who said that such a commission was appointed after the 1979 accident at Pennsylvania’s Three Mile Island nuclear reactor. 

The proposal came as the use of oil dispersants generated concern. 

“Dispersants have never been used at this concentration level,’’ Sen. Richard Shelby (R-Alabama) said, asking the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration to report on the effect of  "dumping thousands of gallons of oil dispersant’’ in the gulf.  "We need to understand if the treatment is worse than the disease.’’

--Richard Simon