Markey: Government Shouldn't Have Released Oil Report

How much oil spewed into the Gulf after BP's April oil spill?

The government says 4.9 million barrels.

But the short answer is the government doesn't really know. That's because it's still checking its work. So says National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) scientist Bill Lehr. He told a House hearing probing the spill that the government was still checking its calculations and algorithms used to study how much oil wound up in the water.

Lehr says a report is coming. But not for a while. And it won't be very sexy."It will be long. It will be boring. It will be written in passive voice," Lehr said. "I assure you it will bore everyone except those of us do who do oil spill science."

But that didn't sit well with Rep. Ed Markey, D-Mass., who called the hearing. Markey blasted Lehr and others for releasing a report last week indicating how much oil poured into the Gulf.

"You shouldn't have released (the report) until you knew it was right," scolded Markey. "If you're not confident it was right, it shouldn't have been released."

Lehr noted that Markey would have to wait two months for the report and noted it was "delayed a week because I had to come here."

"Two months? That's not timely enough, doctor," retorted Markey.

Markey's concerned that the government and private industries are basing their safety calculations on inaccurate data. "People want to believe that everything is OK and I think this report and the way it is being discussed is giving many people a false sense of confidence regarding the state of the Gulf," he said.

During the session, Markey asked Lehr and other officials from the Food and Drug Administration and Environmental Protection Agency questions about the safety of fish caught in the Gulf. He was particularly concerned if the government understood the migratory patterns of fish and if those potentially contaminated by the spill could swim elsewhere.  "Some of the spawning that is going on now in the more-oiled areas of the we know if those fish will migrate?" Markey asked.

As it turned out, no one on the panel knew. An aide from NOAA indicated that someone from the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service could best answer that question. But this subject wasn't the expertise of anyone testifying at the hearing.