Pew Urges Congress to Plug the Leaks in Drilling Law Now

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Pew Urges Congress to Plug the Leaks in Drilling Law Now

The Pew Environment Group today called on Congress and the administration to take decisive actions to prevent disasters like the Deepwater Horizon spill from occurring again and to ensure the restoration of the Gulf.

“Despite continued efforts to cap the oil spill in the Gulf, this catastrophe is far from over,” said Marilyn Heiman, director of Pew Environment Group's offshore energy reform efforts. “Residents of the Gulf endured the hardship of the devastating spill for too long.  Now, all Americans are looking to Congress to show leadership by passing legislation this summer that offers much needed reforms on where, when, and how to drill offshore. Congress must act now to plug the leaks in the law.”

According to Pew, strong legislative reform should:

  • Allow offshore development only in cases where it's proven that the marine and coastal environment won't be harmed;
  • Require a demonstration of fast and effective spill response capability before approval of exploration and production, and also regular testing of this capacity;
  • Ensure that offshore producers use the safest and best technology, and provide incentives to keep improving safety measures;
  • Eliminate liability limits for oil spill damages to ensure that all economic and environmental costs are recovered; and
  • Guarantee affected communities meaningful input into offshore development and spill prevention and response decisions.

“In the 32 years since Congress last amended pertinent offshore drilling legislation, there have been significant advancements in drilling technology.  These have allowed for the extraction of oil and gas from ever-deeper and remote waters,” said Heiman. “Unfortunately, developments in oil spill prevention and response capabilities have lagged.”  

As America's worst environmental disaster has unfolded, there have been dozens of hearings on the oil spill and more than 80 related bills reforming spill response and offshore drilling policy.  Pew's check list applies to bills that are currently being debated in Congress, including:

S. 3305 – This bill would eliminate caps on oil spill liability and improve oil spill response. It passed out of the Senate Environment and Public Works Committee on June 30;
S. 3516 - This bill has broad reforms including more balanced consideration of all marine resources and improved safety measures. It passed out of the Senate Energy and Natural Resources Committee on June 30;
H.R. 5629 – This bill repeals the liability cap and improves maritime safety. It passed out of the House Transportation and Infrastructure Committee on July 1; and
H.R. 3534 – This bill has broad reforms like reorganizing offshore drilling oversight, balancing drilling with other marine resources, and strengthening safety and environmental protections.  It passed out of the House Natural Resources Committee on July 15; and
H.R. 5626 - This bill establishes new federal regulatory requirements to prevent future spills from oil and gas wells.  The bill was reported by the Committee on Energy and Commerce on July 15, 2010, by a vote of 48 to 0, with one abstention.

“The question remains as to whether Congress will pass meaningful legislation this year to avoid future oil drilling catastrophes,” said Heiman.

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