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Gulf oil spill: Obama names investigation panel

June 14, 2010 |  6:16 pm

President Obama named five panelists to a commission tasked with finding ways to avoid a repeat of the Deepwater Horizon disaster, which killed 11 men and started the nation's worst oil spill. They will be led by a former Florida governor and U.S. senator, Bob Graham, and a former administrator for the Environmental Protection Agency, William K. Reilly.

The five are: Frances G. Beinecke, Donald Boesch, Terry D. Garcia, Cherry A. Murray and Frances Ulmer. They come from backgrounds of environmental science and engineering.

“These individuals bring tremendous expertise and experience to the critical work of this commission," Obama said in a statement issued by the White House. "I am grateful they have agreed to serve as we work to determine the causes of this catastrophe and implement the safety and environmental protections we need to prevent a similar disaster from happening again.”

The White House issued the following summaries of the appointees' careers:

Frances Beinecke is  president of the Natural Resources Defense Council, a nonprofit corporation that works to advance environmental policy in the United States and around the world. Beinecke has worked at the council for 35 years, serving as executive director, associate director and deputy executive director. From 1974 through 1983, Beinecke worked as a coastal resource specialist in the councils water and coastal programs, fighting to protect marine ecosystems from the impact of offshore oil and gas development and advocating for sound coastal land use. She currently serves on the board of the World Resources Institute and the steering committees of the U.S. Climate Action Partnership and the Energy Futures Coalition. She was a member of the Yale Corp. and currently serves on the advisory boards of the Yale School of Management and the Yale School of Forestry and Environmental Science. She is the co-author of the book "Clean Energy Common Sense: An American Call to Action on Global Climate Change." She bachelor of science degree from Yale University and an master of foreign science degree from the Yale School of Forestry and Environmental Studies.

Donald “Don” Boesch is the president of the University of Maryland Center for Environmental Science, where he is also a professor of marine science and vice chancellor for environmental sustainability for the University System of Maryland. Boesch assumed the position of president in 1990.  From 1980 to 1990, he served as the first executive director of the Louisiana Universities Marine Consortium and worked as a professor of marine science at Louisiana State University. He is a biological oceanographer who has conducted research on coastal ecosystems along the Atlantic Coast, the Gulf of Mexico, Australia and the East China Sea.  A native of Louisiana, he has assessed the long-term environmental effects of offshore oil and gas development and multiple environmental problems of the Gulf Coast.  A pioneer in the study of the environmental effects of offshore energy development, Boesch edited the seminal 1987 work, "Long-Term Environmental Effects of Offshore Oil and Gas Development." He has served as science advisor to many state and federal agencies and regional, national and international programs.  Boesch is also chairman of the Ocean Studies Board of the National Research Council and a member of the National Academies Committee on America's Climate Choices.  He holds a bachelor of science from Tulane University and a doctorate from the College of William & Mary.  Boesch was also a Fulbright postdoctoral fellow at the University of Queensland, Australia.

Terry D. Garcia is currently executive vice president for Mission Programs for the National Geographic Society.  He is responsible for the society's core mission programs, including programs that support and manage more than 400 scientific field research, conservation and exploration projects annually.  Prior to joining the society in 1999, Mr. Garcia was assistant secretary of commerce for oceans and atmosphere at the U.S. Department of Commerce, and deputy administrator of the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration.  In this role, he directed and coordinated U.S. coastal, ocean and atmospheric programs, including recovery of endangered species, habitat conservation planning, Clean Water Act implementation, development of the national marine sanctuary system and commercial satellite licensing.  From 1994 to 1996, he was general counsel at NOAA and led the implementation of the Exxon Valdez Oil Spill Restoration Plan for Prince William Sound and the Gulf of Alaska.  Before entering government service, Garcia was a partner in the law firms of Manatt, Phelps & Phillips and Hughes Hubbard & Reed.  Garcia has served on various boards and commissions, including the Institute for Exploration/Mystic Aquarium, the Amazonian Center for Environmental Education and Research, the U.S. National Committee for the Census of Marine Life and the Harte Research Institute of Gulf of Mexico Studies at Texas A&M University.  He is also a trustee emeritus of the National Marine Sanctuary Foundation.  Garcia has also served on panels convened by the National Academy of Sciences and the National Academy of Public Administration. He holds a bachelor of arts degree from American University and a juris doctor degree from George Washington University.

Cherry Murray was appointed the dean of the Harvard School of Engineering and Applied Sciences  and John A. and Elizabeth S. Armstrong professor of engineering and applied sciences in July 2009, and is the past president of the American Physical Society. Murray’s expertise is in condensed matter and materials physics, phase transitions, light scattering and surface physics, including the study of soft condensed matter and complex fluids, as well as the management of science and technology. Previously, Murray was principle associate director (2007-2009) and deputy director (2004-2007) for science and technology at Lawrence Livermore National Laboratory. Murray joined Bell Laboratories in 1978 as a staff scientist, marking the beginning of a career that culminated in her position as senior vice president for physical sciences and wireless research at Lucent Technologies (2001-2004). Murray was elected to the National Academy of Sciences in 1999, to the American Academy of Arts and Sciences in 2001 and to the National Academy of Engineering in 2002. She has served on more than 80 national and international scientific advisory committees, governing boards, and National Research Council  panels, including chairing the Division of Engineering and Physical Science of the NRC, and serving on the visiting committee for Harvard’s Department of Physics from 1993 to 2004. In 2002, Discover Magazine named  Murray one of the 50 most important women in science.” Murray holds a bachelor of science (1973) and a doctorate (1978), both in physics, from the Massachusetts Institute of Technology.

Fran Ulmer is chancellor of the University of Alaska Anchorage, Alaska’s largest public university. In addition to serving as UAA’s chancellor, Ulmer is a member of the Aspen Institute's Commission on Arctic Climate Change and holds board positions with the Alaska Nature Conservancy, the National Parks Conservation Association and the Union of Concerned Scientists. Prior to her appointment as chancellor in 2007,  Ulmer was a distinguished visiting professor of public policy and director of the Institute of Social and Economic Research at UAA. During her more than 30 years of working in public service on the local, state, and national levels,  Ulmer has helped to shape both public and environmental policy. As a state legislator, Ulmer served as a member on the Special Committee on the Exxon Valdez Oil Spill Claims Settlement. In addition, she was the first chair of the Alaska Coastal Policy Council, was a member of Gov. Tony Knowles’ Alaska Highway Natural Gas Policy Council and served for more than 10 years on the North Pacific Anadromous Fish Commission.  Ulmer served as an elected official for 18 years as the mayor of Juneau, as a state representative and as lieutenant governor of Alaska. Ulmer served as director of policy development for the state of Alaska, managing diverse programs, including coastal management, intergovernmental coordination, and public participation initiatives. At the national level,  Ulmer served as a member of the Federal Communications Commission's State and Local Advisory Committee, the Federal Elections Commission's State Advisory Committee and co-chaired the National Academies of Science’s Committee on State Voter Registration Databases. Ulmer earned a juris doctor cum laude from the University of Wisconsin Law School and has been a fellow at the Institute of Politics at the Kennedy School of Government.

-- Richard Simon, from Washington