* W.House blocked spill data as BP honesty was questioned
* Releasing spill info may have improved public confidence
(Recasts, updates with comments from oil spill commission)
By Tom Doggett
WASHINGTON, Oct 6 The White House in the spring
blocked release of government worst-case estimates of the
amount of oil spewing from BP's (BP.L) well in the Gulf of
Mexico, the presidential commission looking into the accident
said on Wednesday.
The commission said government officials told its staff
that the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA)
wanted to release some of its long-term, worst-case spill
models for the Deepwater Horizon accident in late April or
early May. But the White House Office of Management and Budget
blocked the move to make the information public.
The commission criticized the decision, saying the
information could have boosted public confidence in the
response to the accident.
"Staff was told that the Office of Management and Budget
denied NOAA's request," the commission said in a draft report
on the amount of oil spilled and what happened to it.
The White House decision to block the estimates came as BP
was being criticized for failing to provide accurate
information on the amount of oil leaking from its well.
The commission said "disclosure of those estimates, and
explanation of their role in guiding the government effort, may
have improved public confidence in the response" to the spill.
Failing to make the numbers public "may have contributed to
public skepticism about whether the government appreciated the
size of the Deepwater Horizon spill and was truly bringing all
of its resources to bear," the commission said.
Commission staff said it found out that the possibility of
releasing the worst-case discharge figures was at least
discussed at the Unified Command level that oversaw efforts to
plug the BP well and clean up the leaked oil.
(Reporting by Tom Doggett; Editing by David Gregorio)