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Obama to meet oil spill panel chairmen Tuesday

President Barack Obama walks to the Oval Office after arriving at the White House in Washington Monday, May 31, 2010. President Barack Obama walks to the Oval Office after arriving at the White House in Washington Monday, May 31, 2010. (AP Photo/Alex Brandon)
By Darlene Superville
Associated Press Writer / June 1, 2010

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WASHINGTON—President Barack Obama plans to hold his first meeting with the co-chairmen of an independent commission investigating the catastrophic oil spill in the Gulf of Mexico.

Obama was to meet Tuesday with Bob Graham, a former Florida governor and U.S. senator, and William K. Reilly, a former head of the Environmental Protection Agency, with a statement to reporters afterward, the White House said.

The commission's inquiry will range from the causes of the spill to the safety of offshore oil drilling and the functioning of government agencies that oversee drilling.

The session comes three days after BP LLC said its latest attempt to stop the oil spewing out of a broken well 5,000 feet underwater had failed, and four days after Obama visited coastal Louisiana to assess the situation and assure residents frustrated by the government's response that he is doing everything possible to fix the well.

Amid concern that the worst oil spill in U.S. history could threaten his presidency, Obama has stepped up his public appearances to demonstrate that he is engaged. He held a White House news conference Thursday, focused almost entirely on the oil spill, and followed that with the Gulf visit on Friday.

Tuesday's meeting will be Obama's first with the commission since he named it less than two weeks ago.

Obama still must name five members of the commission, which will investigate such issues as what caused the spill, the safety of offshore drilling and operations at the federal agency that grants drilling rights.

A senior administration official said Obama was not expected to announce those names on Tuesday. The official spoke on condition of anonymity because the meeting had not been formally announced.

The Gulf oil spill began April 20 when BP's Deepwater Horizon drilling rig exploded off the Louisiana coast, killing 11 workers and rupturing the underwater pipe.

In the six weeks since, the government estimates that between 19.7 million and 43 million gallons of crude have poured into the Gulf -- affecting beaches, wildlife and the local economy and making it the worst spill in U.S. history.

After BP announced Saturday that its latest attempt to stop the oil, known as a "top kill," had failed, Obama said that disappointing news was "as enraging as it is heartbreaking."

It was the latest in a series of failed efforts by the British oil company to shut off the oil flow. BP will try again as early as Wednesday when it attempts to put a cap on the leaking well so oil can be siphoned to the surface.

Graham, a Democrat, served in the Senate from 1987 to 2005 and previously served two terms as Florida governor. Reilly served as EPA administrator under President George H.W. Bush.

Meanwhile, Carol Browner, a top adviser to Obama, said she doesn't want to guess the prospects for success when BP PLC again tries to use a containment cap to control the Gulf Coast oil spill.

Interviewed Tuesday on ABC's "Good Morning America," the White House energy and global warming czar said, "I dont want to put odds on it. ... We want to get this thing contained."

Browner said "everyone, I think, is hoping for the best, but we continue to plan for the worst." She said she's concerned about the impact the hurricane season could have on ending the environmental crisis.