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White House Denies Blocking Gulf Spill Info

The Transocean Discoverer Enterprise drillship burns off gas collected at the BP Deepwater Horizon oil spill n the Gulf of Mexico off the coast of Louisiana, 25 Jun 2010

The Obama administration is rejecting allegations that it blocked information on possible oil flow rates from the damaged Gulf of Mexico oil well.

White House spokesman Robert Gibbs was responding to documents released Wednesday by a presidential commission investigating the oil spill. The documents said the White House budget office in late April or early May blocked the release of government estimates that showed just how bad the spill could be.

Gibbs told reporters Thursday the worst-case scenario regarding the oil spill flow rate was public after a May 2 televised interview with Gulf oil spill National Incident Commander Thad Allen and Interior Secretary Ken Salazar.

Gibbs said the White House was as candid as it could be with the information it had at the time.

The documents from the commission said the government hurt its credibility with the public by failing to release the estimates.

President Barack Obama established the commission in May, to examine the events surrounding the deadly April 20 oil rig explosion and resulting massive oil spill. Gibbs said the president appointed the commission to ask tough questions and that is what they expected.

Shortly after the leak began, the government released estimates that 5,000 barrels of oil were flowing out of the ruptured well each day -- a figure more than 10 times lower than later estimates.

The panel said the working papers released Wednesday were written by commission staff for the use of commission members and are preliminary, subject to change, and do not necessarily reflect the views of the commission. A final report is due in January.

The explosion on the Deepwater Horizon oil rig killed 11 workers and released millions of barrels of oil into the Gulf. The flow of oil was stopped in July after the well was capped. The ruptured well has since been permanently sealed.

The disaster was the worst offshore oil spill in history.

Some information for this report was provided by AP, AFP and Reuters.