WASHINGTON (July 28, 2010) – As the nation marks the 100th day of the BP oil spill, which has created the largest environmental disaster in U.S. history, Congress is moving legislation this week to address the safety concerns resulting from the disaster. Several pieces of reform legislation authored or co-authored by Rep. Edward J. Markey (D-Mass.) have now been included in the House oil spill response legislation scheduled for floor consideration later this week.
And in an analysis released yesterday, the non-partisan Congressional Budget Office (CBO) found the House oil spill package, H.R. 3534, would reduce the federal deficit.
“This legislation will cut the federal deficit while preventing the oil industry from cutting corners when it comes to deepwater drilling safety,” said Rep. Ed Markey (D-Mass). “This legislation presents an easy choice between standing with BP and the other oil companies, or standing with American taxpayers and reducing our deficit.”
Rep. Markey was able to include the following key provisions in the House oil spill response legislation:
Rep. Markey’s ‘Oil Revenue Recovery’ legislation ends the practice of drilling for free by oil companies, recovering up to of $53 billion in taxpayer money from lost oil royalties in the Gulf of Mexico. This money will be directed to pay for deficit reduction.
This legislation fixes a 15-year-old legislative flaw put in place by a Republican-controlled Congress in 1995. Because of an oil company court challenge to the 1995 Deep Water Royalty Relief Act authored by the then-Republican majority along with faulty leases offered by the Interior Department in 1998 and 1999, the Interior Department is currently being forced to refund more than $2.1 billion in royalty payments that oil companies had already made from these leases, including $240 million to BP.
The Government Accountability Office (GAO) has estimated that taxpayers could lose up to an additional $53 billion over the next 25 years as a result of royalty-free drilling when oil prices are high.
Rep. Markey has authored similar legislation to remedy this problem for several years, and these provisions have repeatedly passed the House of Representatives in 2006, 2007 and 2008 with bipartisan support.
Two weeks ago, Rep. Markey successfully offered his language as an amendment to the CLEAR ACT in the Natural Resources Committee. The legislation would offer the dozens of oil companies currently drilling for free in the Gulf of Mexico a simple choice – they can continue to drill for free on public lands no matter how high oil prices climb, but if they do so, they will not be able to purchase new leases from the federal government.
Rep. Markey is a co-author of the Offshore Oil and Gas Worker Whistleblower Protection Act (HR 5851) along with Rep. George Miller (D-CA). Currently there is no federal law protecting oil and gas workers if they are retaliated against after speaking out on workplace health and safety violations on drilling rigs, like the Deepwater Horizon, operating on the Outer Continental Shelf. Modeled after other modern whistleblower statutes, H.R. 5851 would:
--Prohibit an employer from discriminating against an employee who reports to the employer, or government official they believed violated the Outer Continental Shelf Lands Act (OCSLA);
--Protect employees who report injuries or unsafe conditions on drilling rigs, refuse to work based on injury or impairment or a spill, or refuse to perform work in a manner that they believe violates the OCSLA;
--Establish a process for an employee to appeal an employer’s retaliation by filing a complaint with the Secretary of Labor, and allowing a jury trial if the Secretary fails to act in a timely manner;
-- Make whistle blowers eligible for reinstatement, back pay and compensatory and consequential damages, and, where appropriate, exemplary damages;
Blowout Preventer Act:
The Energy and Commerce Committee conducted a vigorous investigation into the causes of the BP’s Deepwater Horizon disaster. This investigation showed that the blowout preventer was riddled with problems, including a significant leak in a main hydraulic system that was improperly modified and not powerful enough to cut through joints in the drill pipe. Plus the “deadman switch” - the last line of defense - had a dead battery. Poor cementing and fatal decisions made by BP in the hours and minutes before the explosion have also been uncovered by the committee.
Legislation to ensure new safety standards for offshore oil and gas drilling have been designed to ensure a disaster like the BP Macondo well blowout will never happen again.
The Blowout Prevention Act – or BP Act – of 2010, sponsored by Reps. Henry Waxman, Bart Stupak, and Markey was developed with bipartisan support in the Energy and Commerce Committee, passing by a unanimous 48-0 vote, and includes the following provisions:
--Strong safety requirements for blowout preventers and other well control systems;
--Require oil company CEOs to certify the safety of each offshore well before drilling begins;
--Third party certification required by independent safety evaluator;
--Offshore oil and gas drilling in state waters must meet safety standards that are at least as stringent as those applicable to wells in federal waters.
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