U.S. Representative George Miller from California has introduced a bill with a whopper of a name: The Implementing the Recommendations of the BP Oil Spill Commission Act. Understanding what the bill tries to do is not very difficult, however. It’s about protecting the United States from the continuing danger of reckless offshore drilling. The bill would, if signed into law:
– Ban companies with especially bad safety records from deepwater drilling
-Reorganize and strengthen the Interior Department’s offshore oil safety agency
-Create a dedicated funding stream to the federal agencies responsible for regulating and overseeing offshore drilling safety and to oil spill research
-Establish unlimited liability for companies in the event of an oil spill
-Dedicate 80 percent of the fines from the Deepwater Horizon oil spill to Gulf of Mexico restoration efforts
-Increase the role of experts in the U.S. Coast Guard and National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration in the decisions about new oil drilling
-Require the Federal Government to develop realistic worst-case flow-rate models to be used by oil companies
-Increase the per incident payout from the oil spill liability trust fund
-Strengthen government expertise on estimating and measuring the flow rates from deepwater spills.
-Require research into gaps in spill response capabilities in the Arctic
-Require new standards for blowout preventers, well design and cementing practices
-Require study of the potential environmental effects of dispersant use
Upon introducing the legislation, George Miller commented, “We’ve heard from the independent oil spill commission that the reforms we tried to enact last year are greatly needed. There is no reason that oil and gas drilling companies, like BP, should not be held accountable for their actions in order to make offshore drilling safer for the environment, safer for workers, and safer for coastal communities. That is what my legislation would accomplish, and I would hope that the Committee Chairman give our bill immediate consideration.”
Representative Miller may have hope, but there’s a double challenge facing this bill. First of all, though House Democrats were able to pass a similar piece of legislation last year, the current Republican House leadership wants to reduce regulations that protect Americans, not enhance them. Secondly, the Senate failed to pass the House legislation last year, when Senate Democrats held a solid majority, and would have an even more difficult time this year, even if it were so inclined.