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Offshore Oil Response Bill Passes the House

Last Friday, a comprehensive bill meant to directly address the ongoing BP disaster in the Gulf and reform the oil and gas industry was narrowly passed in the House of Representatives.  The Consolidated Land, Energy, and Aquatic Resources Act (CLEAR) of 2010 contains significant fiscal and regulatory reforms for the former Minerals Management Service and the offshore oil and gas industry, revitalizes the Land and Water Conservation Fund, and includes an unlimited liability cap for offshore operators.

Deepwater Horizon rig.  Photo courtesy of the U.S. Coast Guard

The bill includes many reforms which would go a long way towards cleaning up the dirty oil and gas industry.  It would increase the effectiveness of oversight mechanisms for offshore development, require environment diligence, mitigate the impacts of marine and coastal environments, mandate the use of "best available technology," and require specific spill prevention and clean-up plans.  It would fully fund the Land and Water Conservation Fund, something which has only happened once since the fund was established under President Eisenhower, and acquire and protect lands using oil revenue.  Finally, and perhaps most importantly, by including the unlimited liability the bill would ensure that those responsible for disasters such as the BP spill would be legally required to pay for all economic damages caused by their operations.  This would be a huge step forward and would force the industry to closely examine where it wants to operate and the risks it's willing to take with our oceans and coasts.

The Senate is not expected to take up its own version of the bill before it recesses.  But it must return to this legislation when it reconvenes in September.  This bill has many vital, commonsense reforms to an industry that has proven itself time and again to be too dangerous to risk our robust coastal economie and environments.


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