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Skelton says American economy still needs safe domestic oil production
Skelton says American economy still needs safe domestic oil production

Congressman Ike Skelton
WASHINGTON, D.C. (June 7, 2010) — While most Americans acknowledge we must diminish our appetite for oil and gasoline, transitioning to alternative energy sources will not happen overnight. In the interim, we must reduce our reliance on foreign oil by increasing our oil production here at home. That is why I continue to support opening new areas for American oil exploration.

However, the recent sinking of an oil rig in the Gulf of Mexico and the subsequent oil spill catastrophe have highlighted the need for significant reexamination of the oil drilling regulations in place and how those regulations are enforced by the federal government. Also, the government must continue to contain and clean up the escaping oil and limit the scope of this horrendous disaster as much as possible.

Just last week I spoke with Coast Guard Rear Admiral Peter Neffenger about ongoing cleanup operations in the Gulf. He detailed the array of activities our Coast Guardsmen and military personnel are undertaking to contain and clean up the spill and BP’s continuing efforts to plug their leaking pipes. From airlifting personnel around the Gulf to laying oil booms and erecting sand barriers, I am confident that our uniformed personnel are doing everything within their power to protect the coasts and economies of Gulf states.

Additionally, the President and Congress have begun to thoroughly examine the current operational and regulatory structure of the oil industry. In my view, Congress must determine whether oil companies have been cutting corners on offshore oil rigs to circumvent federal regulators, carefully examine the effectiveness of our nation’s federal regulators, and require offshore oil rigs to have emergency safeguards in place in case of an accident. America has been caught flat-footed with respect to BP’s Deepwater Horizon oil spill, and that is not acceptable in this day and age.

In response, I have cosponsored H.R. 5313, the Offshore Safety and Response Improvement Act. This legislation, authored by two Republican Congressmen, would require offshore oil rigs to have acoustic remote control emergency shutoff devices within one year, or report to Congress and the public specifically why such devices are unnecessary. It would also require the EPA to revise the National Oil and Hazardous Substances Pollution Contingency Plan to ensure our nation can best handle oil spills under varying conditions and to regularly update this plan. Furthermore, the measure would require the EPA and the Interior Department to regularly determine the best technologies and methods for cleaning up oil spills and protecting coastlines.

Oil companies must also remember that they often drill in areas owned by the American people. They must always pay fair compensation for the privilege of drilling on public lands and in public waters, and they must accept full financial responsibility for their oil spills. BP must reimburse the federal government for cleanup expenses associated with the Deepwater Horizon disaster and must fairly compensate the American people whose livelihoods have been impacted by the incident.

In the coming days, Congress will examine current law to determine whether changes are necessary to ensure fair and just compensation for American families. I will also continue to monitor the oil spill in the Gulf of Mexico and our federal response to it.

Congressman Ike Skelton (D-Mo.) serves as chairman of the House Armed Services Committee. Congressman Skelton’s website is at www.house.gov/skelton.

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