Lawmakers roll out measures to respond to oil spill issues
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.