Legislation Reflects Spill Commission Recommendations, House-passed Bill

WASHINGTON (January 26, 2011) – House Democrats today introduced new, revamped legislation to reform and renew the practices and oversight of the offshore oil industry following the worst oil spill in U.S. history. The legislation reflects the recommendations of the independent oil spill commission tasked with investigating the BP Deepwater Horizon oil spill, and the practices of the oil industry. The bill, called the Implementing the Recommendations of the BP Oil Spill Commission Act, also includes elements from the oil spill response bill that House Democrats passed in July of 2010.

The legislation includes the following major elements, which all reflect the recommendations of the spill commission:

  • --Reorganizes the Interior Department and strengthens the Department’s offshore oil safety agency.
  • --Creates a dedicated funding stream to the federal agencies responsible for regulating and overseeing the safety of offshore drilling.
  • --Establishes unlimited liability for companies in the event of an oil spill as a deterrent against risky practices.
  • --Dedicates 80 percent of the fines from the oil spill to Gulf of Mexico restoration efforts.
  • --Increases the role of experts in the U.S. Coast Guard and National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration in the decision-making process for where new oil drilling can occur.
  • --Requires the Federal Government to develop realistic worst-case flow-rate models and for oil companies to use them when they create real, worst-case scenario oil spill response plans.
  • --Creates a dedicated funding stream for oil spill research and development.
  • --Increases the per incident payout from the oil spill liability trust fund.
  • --Creates permanent government expertise on estimating and measuring the flow rates from deepwater spills.
  • --Requires research into gaps in scientific data and response capabilities in the Arctic.
  • --Requires strong new standards for blowout preventers, well design and cementing practices.
  • --Requires extensive study of the potential effects of dispersant use on aquatic life and the environment.

A more detailed summary of the legislation are available on the Natural Resources Committee Democratic website HERE .

Full text of the legislation is available HERE .

This legislation turns the lessons of the BP oil spill into the laws that will ensure this type of disaster does not happen again in American waters,” said Rep. Edward J. Markey (D-Mass.), Ranking Member of the Natural Resources Committee. “This legislation will allow the offshore oil industry to continue doing business while changing the business-as-usual practices that led to the Gulf of Mexico spill.

“The lessons from the explosion and blowout on the Deepwater Horizon are clear.  Commonsense regulations are necessary to protect the economy and environment of the Gulf Coast,” said Rep. Henry A. Waxman (D-Calif.), Ranking Democrat of the House Energy and Commerce Committee. “With this legislation, we can hold the appropriate parties accountable and make sure that this type of catastrophic blowout never happens again.”

“Gone are the days of Federal land management agencies sitting on the sidelines while Big Oil is given free reign to write its own rules and run roughshod over America’s public energy resources. Gone too is the around-the-clock coverage of oil spewing into the Gulf, but in no way should that lessen the urgency with which Congress acts to prevent another disaster from occurring,” said Rep. Nick J. Rahall (D-W.Va.), Democratic leader of the House Transportation and Infrastructure Committee.  “This bill is about holding BP and other parties responsible, restoring the economy of the Gulf, and making sure offshore drilling is done in an efficient and safe manner, because no one should have to risk their life to secure their livelihood.”

“The fact of the matter is, no worker should ever have to choose between his or her life and livelihood,” said Rep. George Miller (D-Calif.), Ranking Member of the Education and Workforce Committee. “This legislation includes important provisions to protect workers and the environment when companies are drilling for oil and gas. We will bar companies with a history of being dangerous to workers or to the environment from the privilege of drilling off America’s coastline for our natural resources, and we will ensure that whistleblowers are protected when they call attention to dangerous practices.”

Reps. Miller and Markey also introduced companion legislation today that would extend modern whistleblower protections to workers whose employers are engaged in oil and gas exploration, drilling, production, or cleanup on the Outer Continental Shelf. Currently, those workers have no protection against retaliation by an employer for speaking up on hazardous conditions.

“Few legislative modifications to the Oil Pollution Act of 1990 research and development program have been made since its enactment. The response to the Deepwater Horizon disaster in the Gulf of Mexico has exposed the need for an effective and coordinated research program for oil spill response and cleanup. Additionally, the National Commission report on the BP Deepwater Horizon Oil Spill and Offshore Drilling calls for mandatory funding for this oil spill response research and development,” said Eddie Bernice Johnson (D-Texas), Ranking Member of the House Science, Space, and Technology Committee. “As the Ranking Member of the Science, Space, and Technology Committee, I look forward to us all working together to ensure that our nation is better equipped to prevent and respond to incidents such as the devastation of the Deepwater Horizon Oil Spill in the Gulf of Mexico.”

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  Rep. Markey discusses the new legislation at a press conference, Jan. 26, 2011.



 Rep. Markey and Rep. Miller discuss the new legislation at a press conference, Jan. 26, 2011.



  Rep. Markey, Rep Waxman, and Rep. Miller discuss the new legislation at a press conference, Jan. 26, 2011.