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Drill, Baby, Drill?

May 6, 2011 - by Donny Shaw

Oil prices may have had their biggest drop since 2008 yesterday, but that didn't stop the House from using the bubble to push forward their legislation to expand offshore oil drilling. By a vote of 266-149 yesterday, the House passed the "Restarting American Offshore Leasing Now Act," which would force the Secretary of the Interior to conduct lease sales on three drilling sites in the Gulf of Mexico and one of the coast of Virginia. The Obama Administration had put these leases on hold indefinitely following the BP spill in order to ensure that the lax regulatory environment that made that spill possible had been improved. So far, however, Congress has not passed a single piece of legislation to improve offshore drilling safety

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Since the Deepwater Horizon exploded and oil began gushing in the Gulf, Senate Democrats have tried repeatedly, under unanimous consent agreements, to move legislation to lift the $75 million cap on oil companies' liability for economic damages caused by spills and gushers. Each time they tried, they were blocked by Republicans who argue that raising the liability cap would discourage competition in the offshore oil-drilling industry.

So the Democrats are moving forward with plan two -- advancing the bill under regular order, through the committee process to the Senate floor. The Senate Environment and Public Works Committee passed the bill today, and they added a major strengthening amendment that will make the Republicans who objected to the original bill like it even less.

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A day after President Obama said that he will help whip votes for passing climate change legislation in the Senate this year, Senate Majority Leader Sen. Harry Reid [D, NV] called on committee chairmen to prepare a strategy for passing a climate bill this summer. And he's calling for proposals to address the BP oil leak to be rolled into it.

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The Republican Oil Spill Liability Alternative

June 2, 2010 - by Donny Shaw

Senate Democrats have tried three times to pass their bill to raise the liability cap on oil companies for the economic impact of spills, and three times Republicans objected -- once through Sen. Lisa Murkowski [R, AK] and twice through Sen. David Vitter [R, LA]. The Republicans call the Democrats' proposal for a $10 billion cap "arbitrary" and argue that it would be too high for all but the biggest oil companies to be involved in offshore drilling.

On May 25, after objecting to the Democrats' bill for the second time, Senator Vitter came out with his own alternative, called the Acceptance of Liability and Expedited Claims at Mississippi Canyon 252 Act. According to Vitter, his bill would completely remove the liability cap for economic damages on BP for the Deepwater Horizon spill and establish an expedited claims process.

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