Legislative Action on the BP Oil Spill

Posted on by Karina

Last Friday, the House passed a sweeping package of offshore drilling reforms as part of the response to the BP Oil spill in the Gulf of Mexico. Congress continues to move forward with a full inquiry into the disastrous BP oil spill and demanding answers from those responsible, including BP, Transocean, and Halliburton. As the New York Times points out today in an editorial:

Over the opposition of most Republicans and the massed power of the oil industry, the House last week narrowly approved legislation imposing new safeguards on offshore oil drilling. The bill would tighten environmental rules, sharply increase penalties for spills and, in myriad other ways, seek to minimize the risks of oil and gas exploration in America's coastal waters.

…Do the Republicans really want to tell voters in the fall that they have done nothing to respond to the spill?

Apparently, the answer is yes. 98% of House Republicans voted last week against the CLEAR Act.

Congressional Republicans support Wall Street banks, credit card companies, Big Oil, and insurance companies — the special interests that benefited from George Bush's policies and created the worst financial crisis since the Great Depression. We are not going back. Learn more about recent legislation on the BP Oil Spill:


Last week, the House passed the updated Consolidated Land, Energy, and Aquatic Resources (CLEAR) Act of 2010, key reforms targeted to effective prevention and response to oil spills and protection of our coastal communities and waters:

Contains strong new safety measures, including independent certification of critical equipment

Holds BP and oil industry fully responsible for cleanup costs and recovery after spills — removing the $75 million cap on economic damages to be paid by Big Oil to families and small businesses

Strengthens oversight of oil drilling by dismantling the current scandal ridden agency in charge

Restores the Gulf Coast and protects local residents

Provides long overdue taxpayer protections, making oil companies pay their fair share for drilling on public lands

Reduces the deficit — saving taxpayers more than $5 billion in the next five years (CBO), and up to $50 billion of the next 25 years (GAO).

The House also passed the Offshore Oil and Gas Worker Whistleblower Protection Act, which extends whistleblower protections to workers regarding Outer Continental Shelf oil and gas exploration, drilling, production, or cleanup, whose employers are engaged in those activities — as they are in the best position to discover safety hazards.


On July 21st, the House passed two key R&D bills that have been written in response to what we have learned from the BP oil spill. The Oil Pollution Research and Development Program Reauthorization Act will modify oil drilling research, development to further innovation technologies and methods to prevent, detect, recover and mitigate oil discharges.

The Safer Oil and Natural Gas Drilling Technology Research and Development Program, makes safety and accident prevention and mitigation a key priority in the deepwater drilling research and development.


On July 1st, the House passed the SPILL Act, to reform maritime liability laws — Death on the High Seas Act (1920), Jones Act (1920) and the Limitation on Liability Act (1851) — to ensure that the families of those killed or injured in the BP Spill and other such tragedies are justly compensated for their losses.


On June 23rd, the House passed legislation to give subpoena power to the National Commission on the BP Deepwater Horizon Oil Spill and Offshore Drilling. The Commission–co-chaired by former Senator Bob Graham of Florida and former EPA Administrator Bill Reilly–was established on May 22 and is tasked with providing recommendations on how we can prevent future spills that result from offshore drilling and mitigate any impact.


To ensure we have the tools needed to respond to the BP Oil Spill, the House passed S. 3473 on June 10th to permit the Coast Guard to obtain one or more advances from the Oil Spill Liability Trust Fund to underwrite federal response activities related to the BP/Deepwater Horizon Oil Spill. Under current law, the Coast Guard can only withdraw up to $100 million from the fund to finance emergency response efforts after an accident and that money is about to run out. BP is required to repay these funds. The trust fund, created by the Oil Pollution Act of 1990, is funded by an 8-cent fee paid by the oil companies on each barrel of oil. This legislation has been signed by President Obama.

We are also moving America in a New Direction for energy independence–working to lower costs for consumers, making America more secure, and launching a cleaner, smarter, more cost-effective energy future that creates millions of clean energy jobs and reduces global warming:

In May, the House passed the Home Star Energy Retrofit Act to provide immediate incentives for consumers who renovate their homes to become more energy-efficient — creating jobs here at home and saving money for American families.

Through the America COMPETES Act, Congress has invested in research and development into groundbreaking energy technology. Energy Innovation Hubs will support research, development, demonstration and commercial application of advanced energy technologies. The bill also creates federal loan guarantees to help small- and medium-sized manufacturers access capital to invest in innovative technologies that will help them become more efficient and competitive.

The American Clean Energy and Security Act, passed by the House last June, will create clean energy jobs here in America, protect consumers, reduce pollution and help free us from our dangerous dependence on dirty foreign fuels.

The bills listed above are still awaiting Senate action, but the Senate passed, and the President signed, the Recovery Act which made historic and job-creating investments in a clean energy future, estimated to create more than 700,000 jobs, nearly double our use of renewable electricity, and save consumers up to $98 a year.

Meanwhile, Republicans continue to side with Big Oil by blocking legislation in the Senate to hold BP accountable. And their allegiance to special interests couldn't be clearer than when the top House Republican on the Energy and Commerce Committee apologized to BP for the Administration's successful efforts to hold BP accountable. This continued support for Bush-Cheney energy policies is also seen in the House Republican leadership's opposition to and votes against bills that would:

strengthen our national security by reducing our dependence on foreign oil;

create skilled new American clean energy jobs that can't be outsourced;

boost American innovation to invent and build the clean energy technology that will power the world; and

hold Big Oil accountable to explore and produce domestic energy on already leased lands, at competitive prices, in an clean and safe manner.

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