Law­mak­ers roll out mea­sures to re­spond to oil spill is­sues

Austin American-Statesman - - WORLD & NATION -

WASHINGTON — House and Se­nate Demo­cratic lead­ers in­tro­duced bills Tues­day re­spond­ing to the Gulf of Mex­ico oil spill, with pro­vi­sions to over­haul the fed­eral reg­u­la­tion of off­shore drilling, lift li­a­bil­ity lim­its on com­pa­nies re­spon­si­ble for dam­ag­ing spills and fun­nel more money to spill-re­lated re­search and restora­tion projects.

The nar­rowly writ­ten Se­nate bill falls far short of the com­pre­hen­sive leg­is­la­tion on en­ergy and cli­mate change that Se­nate Democrats and the White House have been pur­su­ing for more than a year. Se­nate lead­ers aban­doned that goal last week, con­ced­ing that they did not have the sup­port or the time to pass any bill to be­gin to con­trol the green­house gases that sci­en­tists say con­trib­ute to the warm­ing of the planet.

The House passed a com­pre­hen­sive cli­mate bill last year.

Both new mea­sures call for a re­or­ga­ni­za­tion of the Depart­ment of In­te­rior’s trou­bled agency that reg­u­lates off­shore drilling, for­merly known as the Min­er­als Man­age­ment Ser­vice. They also call for tougher over­sight of off­shore op­er­a­tions, more as­sertive en­vi­ron­men­tal mon­i­tor­ing and new fees on oil com­pa­nies to help pay for com­pli­ance.

The 238-page House bill in­cludes a so-called bad ac­tor pro­vi­sion that would deny drilling rights to any com- pany that has had more than 10 deaths off­shore or at land­based oil op­er­a­tions over the pre­vi­ous seven years. That rule would cur­rently ap­ply only to BP.

The Se­nate bill, spon­sored by Sen. Harry Reid of Ne­vada, the Demo­cratic leader, in­cludes sub­si­dies for projects that im­prove en­ergy ef­fi­ciency in homes, in­cen­tives linked to ve­hi­cles pow­ered by elec­tric­ity and nat­u­ral gas, and new spend­ing on fed­eral land and wa­ter projects.

Reid said the bill was in­tended to cre­ate jobs, lower en­ergy costs, re­duce de­pen­dence on for­eign oil and tighten reg­u­la­tion of off­shore drilling. But he ac­knowl­edged that it was not the broad en­ergy and cli­mate bill he wanted.

Pres­i­dent Barack Obama, in a brief ap­pear­ance Tues­day af­ter­noon, en­dorsed the Se­nate and House Demo­cratic pack­ages.

Jack Ger­ard, pres­i­dent of the Amer­i­can Petroleum In­sti­tute, crit­i­cized the Demo­cratic bills, say­ing they would raise the cost of pro­duc­tion, fence off large ar­eas of the outer con­ti­nen­tal shelf to drilling, drive small and mid­size com­pa­nies out of busi­ness and im­pose “puni­tive” tax in­creases.

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