Activists dressed as oil cleanup workers pretend to mop up oil and clean a stuffed turtle at a rally in Upper Senate Park on Wednesday on the one-year anniversary of the Gulf oil spill.
Congressional Democrats used Wednesday’s anniversary of the BP oil spill that wreaked havoc in the Gulf Coast to call for sweeping energy reform this year.
In a statement, House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.) said: “we still need to enact major reforms” to improve the safety regulations governing the oil industry and boost compensation packages for the survivors of drilling accidents like the one that killed 11 oil rig workers off Louisiana’s Gulf Coast last year.
Pelosi complained that the Senate failed to pass a host of bills passed out of the House last year dealing with the spill, and called on the GOP to pick up the slack.
“Republicans in the House should consider these reforms along with several other recommendations from the BP Oil Spill Commission for what should be a bipartisan goal: more effective prevention and response to oil spills, protection of our coastal communities and waters, and holding responsible parties accountable in the event of any future spills,” Pelosi said in a statement, referencing legislation passed under Democratic rule last year.
Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid (D-Nev.), who is on a Congressional trip to China this week, said there needs to be an increased focus on developing renewable energy sources and noted that last year’s tragic events are a stark reminder that “the United States must reduce our dependence on oil.”
And in a dig at the House Republicans’ budget that was approved last week, Reid also noted “At this critical time in the recover of our economy, we cannot afford to keep giving huge tax breaks to big oil companies that even some of their executives have admitted they don’t need.”
Republicans and pro-drilling lawmakers used Wednesday’s anniversary to call on the Obama administration to more quickly issue drilling permits for domestic oil exploration.
“It’s time to take the lessons that we learned from this disaster and move forward in developing our domestic resources to meet America’s energy needs,” National Republican Senatorial Committee Chairman John Cornyn (Texas) said in a statement.
The House Natural Resources Committee hosted a field hearing in Houma, La., on Monday to mark the one-year anniversary of the BP oil spill. President Barack Obama imposed an offshore drilling moratorium following the April 20, 2010, spill, which was derided by Republicans and eventually lifted in October 2010. Natural Resources Chairman Doc Hastings (R-Wash.), who traveled to Louisiana for the field hearing, said the moratorium was a setback for Gulf Coast recovery.
“For the past year, offshore energy operations in the Gulf have been sidelined – leaving thousands of out of work, Hastings said in a statement. “Rigs have left the Gulf for foreign counties, and with gasoline prices rising toward $4 per gallon, the United States cannot afford to shutter American energy production.”
The Natural Resources panel approved three separate drilling measures last week, including one to expedite oil exploration off the Gulf Coast. Sens. Jeff Bingaman (D-N.M.) and Lisa Murkowski (R-Alaska), the chairman and ranking member of the Energy and Natural Resources Committee, are expected to reintroduce a drilling safety measure in the coming weeks. The legislation, which would reform drilling regulations, was approved by the panel last year but never made it to the floor.