As authorities in the Gulf try and stem and stop the current spilling of oil, a presidential commission is beginning the process of looking into the larger benefits and shortcomings of deepwater drilling.
On Monday, Adm. Thad Allen -- the man tasked with overseeing the crisis -- offered his support for a suggestion that has been bandied about on the Hill (among other places) as a way of potentially preventing the type of large-scale disaster now unfolding. Instead of waiting for an oil company to drill a relief well should a spill occur, the commission should consider requiring that company to have the relief well drilled in advance.
"I think that would be a legitimate point to be raised and put in front of the commission as they do their work," Allen said, when asked about the preemptive safety measure during a Monday White House briefing.
White House Press Secretary Robert Gibbs added: "I would say that would fall under the regulatory framework... in order to determine the best way to operate this and create a safe atmosphere moving forward."
The two officials would not weigh in on the merits of the proposal beyond that. But on the Hill there have been at least informal discussions about requiring oil companies to have relief wells ready to go on shorter notice should an unforeseen disaster take place with a primary well.
In the case of the current spill, the benefits of having a relief well ready in a shorter time frame seem fairly clear. In instances in which a spill cannot be capped, it is the only surefire measure of stopping the flow of oil. As it stands now, Allen has acknowledged that the damage being caused in the Gulf won't end until BP finishes drilling its relief well in August.
"The final fix is the relief well in August, and that is the right time frame," he told Fox News Sunday. "And to mitigate the risk of that, there's a second relief well being drilled in case there's a problem with the first."