ALERT: Is the National Oil Spill Commission Trying to Intimidate Our Researchers?


Environmental activists know the old saying is true: The closer you get to the truth, the HOTTER it gets. Well then, we must be on the right track. Our researchers are reporting plenty of heat – and now, the story is starting to make its way into the mainstream media with reports that a congressman has announced an investigation into the matter.

Reports WWL Eyewitness News in Louisiana (and rebroadcast by CNN last night, Sept. 17): “Some independent scientists, who have been looking into oil spill contamination in the Gulf of Mexico, said they have received some unsettling phone calls from the federal government…the calls came from attorneys, on behalf of the National Oil Spill Commission. The scientists said their questions seemed designed to cast doubts on their findings.”

According to the Commission’s website, President Obama set it up on May 22, 2010 to:

  • Examine the facts and circumstances to determine the cause of the Deepwater Horizon Oil Disaster
  • Develop options for guarding against future oil spills associated with offshore drilling
  • Submit a final public report to the President with its findings within 6 months of the Commission’s first meeting

The scientists taking heat from the Commission were hired by me and my associates. They are Dr. William Sawyer, a Florida-based toxicologist, and Mr. Marco Kaltofen, P.E., a scientist and head of Boston Chemical Data in Massachusetts. It seems Sawyer and Kaltofen are upsetting some people, because they’re finding hydrocarbons – at above-normal levels – in seafood. These findings, of course, run counter to the “all clear” government position. It’s no secret we have real concerns about the safety of seafood, and we’ve been publishing our sampling results on a public website ( to make the data available to everyone.

As mentioned, the federal phone calls were serious enough for U.S. Rep. Joseph Cao (R-LA), according to the the WWL-TV report, to call for a congressional investigation into the matter. “The public has a right to know whether or not the water and our seafood are safe based on the best data available,” Cao told the station.

The federal Commission issued one of those non-denial denials. Again, from Eyewitness News: “Commission Press Secretary Dave Cohen said one of the scientists, Sawyer, was ‘…One of many experts with whom we were having discussions to gain insights and possibly serve as expert panelists before the commission…. We deeply regret if any question we may have asked created a misunderstanding.’ ” Well, we agree that Dr. Sawyer would be a great witness, and appreciate the compliment, but that was not his impression of the conservation.

Look, this had to happen. The researchers we work with are not exactly obscure in the scientific community. They are top researchers who are extremely familiar with the rigors of collecting scientific data that can be used in court. The bar is set high: One slip-up in documentation or failing to have everything verified by an independent lab, and you’ve wasted a lot of time and money. Worse, you have to face your clients who were relying on that research. Trust me, we take our research very seriously.

And, BTW, we’re not the first researchers to report alleged intimidation. University researchers across the Gulf report similar incidents. In our case, there have been not-so-veiled suggestions that we didn’t have the proper permits to take certain samples. We’ll be blogging more about how BP and its government friends use permits to restrict everything from research to dolphin and turtle rescue. Yes, believe it or not, we are developing compelling evidence that the Unified Command and BP impeded the rescue of endangered species by using the permit excuse. More on that soon.

I’ll say again what I say on-camera in the Eyewitness News report: “What has been most important to us is to make sure that we have independent data, that is gathered from along the coast, where our clients reside.”

© Smith Stag, LLC 2010 – All Rights Reserved

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Stuart H. Smith is an attorney based in New Orleans fighting major oil companies and other polluters.
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