Magazine article Issues in Science and Technology

House Approves Bill to Reform Offshore Oil Drilling

Magazine article Issues in Science and Technology

House Approves Bill to Reform Offshore Oil Drilling

Article excerpt

After holding dozens of hearings on the Deepwater Horizon oil rig explosion and well rupture in the Gulf of Mexico, the House on July 30 passed a bill to reform offshore oil drilling and restore the Gulf Coast. A Senate bill did not make it to the floor but was expected to receive a vote after the August recess.

The House passed H.R. 3534, the Consolidated Land, Energy, and Aquatic Resources Act of 2009, by a vote of 209 to 193. The bill would remove the current monetary cap on the liability facing companies involved in offshore drilling accidents, impose new fees on oil production, strengthen offshore oil drilling safety standards, and replace the Minerals Management Service (MMS) with three new agencies. The latter is consistent with action already taken by the Department of the Interior.

The bill would direct some revenue from offshore drilling to research and coastal planning efforts, and 10% of the revenues would go to an Ocean Resources Conservation and Assistance Fund, which would provide grants to coastal states and regional ocean partnerships for activities related to the protection, maintenance, and restoration of ocean, coastal, and Great Lakes ecosystems, including a competitive research and education grant program. The funds will also support the development and operation of an integrated ocean observation system.

The House bill contains provisions to better understand chemicals used to break up and disperse crude oil from the surface of water. The bill would institute a temporary moratorium on dispersant use until the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) develops regulations on their safe application. It would also require the release of information about the chemical ingredients of dispersants, which companies now keep secret for proprietary reasons.

On August 2, the EPA announced the results of a second round of testing on eight dispersants. …

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