Robert Gibbs and Thad Allen

Admiral Thad Allen, National Incident Commander for the BP oil spill, admitted in yesterday’s White House briefing that the government has failed to meet the President’s goal of recovering 90 percent of the flow coming from the spill site by the end of June. He conceded that that goal wouldn’t be attainable without installing a new cap.

REPORTER: A few weeks ago, one percentage figure that has been used by the President, and I believe you, Admiral Allen, was 90 percent — a few weeks ago the President said that in a few weeks 90 percent of whatever it is, the gas and the oil, the carbons coming up from the floor, would be capped. Where are we on that? Ninety percent of what?

ADMIRAL ALLEN: Ninety percent of the flow coming out of the wellbore right now.

MR. GIBBS: Also, to add a little context to what the Admiral said, the hope for the kill line to the Helix was obviously the end of June — largely around today. Because of weather, equipment had to be taken off of the Enterprise that’s needed for the Helix. So the date for — which the Admiral said earlier in the briefing — is sort of midweek next week to bring the kill line to the Helix online that would take us what we believe to a capacity of around 50,000 to 53,000 barrels a day.

REPORTER: But that’s not 90 percent.

ADMIRAL ALLEN: No, the 90 percent is achieved with the second cap.

When asked by a reporter on a timeline for the new cap, Allen responded, “No decision like that is forthcoming right now. We’re technically reviewing all of those options right now.”

Currently some of the gushing oil is being collected by a direct line from the wellhead to the Discoverer Enterprise and a choke line to the Q4000. A new ship, the Helix Producer, which was scheduled to head to the area and provide some redundancy to the process by connecting to the well through a “kill line”, has been delayed due to the weather. This new cap proposed by BP would be designed to replace the current cap and provide a permanent seal, allowing the company to implement several other measures to finally plug the leak.

A further ding on the White House’s credibility came as the Senate’s Energy and National Resources Committee voted to create a bipartisan commission to look in to the oil spill, even though the White House had created a similar committee, the , last month. That committee will have its first meeting on July 12th, nearly two months after its creation. Casting doubt on the fairness of the White House commission, Senator Mary Landrieu (D-LA) said:

Maybe the commission that the Congress sets up, in a more balanced fashion, with both very strong environmental views and very strong industry views, could actually come up with something that really might work for the dilemma and the challenge that this nation faces, which briefly is this:  We use 20 million barrels off oil a day. That was true the day before the Deepwater Horizon blew up. It is true today. We need to get that oil from somewhere.

As The Times-Picayune reports, some, including Senator Landrieu, have objected to what they see as an attempt by the White House to pack their commission solely with environmental advocates.