Nightly News | September 27, 2010
BRIAN WILLIAMS, anchor: Tonight, the gulf oil spill was back in the news today, specifically the question of how much oil is out there in that water. Remember that leak went on for 87 days, and some folks have led us to believe it's somehow gone away, perhaps dissolving naturally. We learned more about the truth in those waters today. Our report from NBC 's Lisa Myers .
LISA MYERS reporting: The two chairmen of the administration's Oil Spill Commission today expressed skepticism about the government's claim that its response was not hamstrung by grossly inaccurate estimates of the size of the spill.
Former Senator BOB GRAHAM (Former Senator, BP Oil Spill Commission Chairman): It's a little bit like Custer . He underestimated the number of Indians that were going to be over -- on the other side of the hill, and he paid the ultimate price for that.
MYERS: Initially, BP and the government estimated only up to 5,000 barrels of oil a day was leaking from the well. Government scientists later said it was actually 62,000 barrels a day. Incident Commander Thad Allen insists he would not have done anything differently.
Commander THAD ALLEN: And the reason is, we assumed at the outset this could be a catastrophic event.
MYERS: An oceanographer challenged another government estimate, the White House declaration last month that 75 percent of oil spilled into the gulf had been cleaned up or degraded. Ian McDonald says more than half of the oil remains in the gulf and will not dissipate quickly.
Mr. IAN McDONALD (Florida State University): It was the most concentrated and most sustained deep water release of oil that we've ever seen in human history.
MYERS: A local official, Billy Nungesser of Louisiana 's Plaquemine 's Parish was critical of the government's response from day one. Says he never could figure out who was in charge.
Mr. BILLY NUNGESSER: BP would say it was the Coast Guard , the Coast Guard would say it's BP . And we -- it became a joke in our EOC that the home of command it was the Wizard of Oz , some guy behind a curtain, because we never got a name.
MYERS: The commission says it will begin making public some findings of its investigation in November.