After huge disasters occur, Washington policymakers tend to create investigative panels to probe what happened and recommend changes to prevent a repeat.
The BP oil spill is no different. President Barack Obama plans to appoint an independent panel to examine the disaster. He will bypass Congress and create it by executive order.
There are already a number of congressional panels holding hearings. But congressional hearings by their nature often take on a political coloration.
Blue-ribbon panels at least have the appearance of objectivity and are often populated with experts who can produce authoritative reports. So on a disaster as large potentially as the gulf oil spill, an investigative panel was something of a given.
Even though Obama wouldn't need Congress to create the panel, his decision was welcomed by Rep. Ed Markey (D-Mass.) who is co-sponsoring legislation for a congressionally created panel.
"Whether it's a nuclear meltdown at Three Mile Island or an oil blowout one mile deep, appointing an independent review panel is critical to reduce the risks of future accidents," said Markey, chair of the Select Committee on Energy Independence and Global Warming. "Following the Three Mile Island nuclear meltdown, President Carter appointed an independent panel to investigate the cause of the meltdown and recommend safety improvements. President Obama creating an independent blue-ribbon panel on this oil spill will help provide the recommendations to ensure that similar disasters do not happen again."