Thursday, August 05, 2010

CLEAR Act Passed in House

From an article at Human Events: Most voters’ knowledge of the oil industry begins and ends at the self-serve pump, and Congress is a sucker for a villain in a black hat. In targeting bad guys, however, Congress is the original “Gang That Couldn’t Shoot Straight.” Its strategies to punish Big Oil usually miss the intended target, with a result that is as negative as it is predictable.

The House passed legislation on a vote of 209-193 that claims to toughen offshore drilling safety while lifting caps on liability for spills though this will further dampen domestic production.

This article questions the extent the Coast Guard played in the oil spill. Who will hold them accountable as they conduct investigations into the tragedy? To listen in on the hearings as they were broadcast on C-SPAN, the bias of some questioners was obvious. Some questions were asked as though there was a snarl in the questioner's voice. Some of the questioned were on the drilling rig as newly-hired members of the drill crew. Some were longtime veterans of the drilling company, Transocean. Some of the more technical panels were interesting to those in the business but for those not - and the Coast Guard representatives are clearly not experts in oil drilling - a lot of it was over our heads. It was clear that a justification for shutting down drilling was on the minds of those who snarled.

In the CLEAR Act (H.R. 3534), sold to House members as a response to the Gulf oil spill crisis, the vote was 209-193. Thirty-nine Democrats voted against the bill and two Republicans voted for it. It was reported that the bill "is aimed at improving environmental and safety protections in the wake of the spill, and bolstering oil spill response capacity", in The Hill.

The glitch for the members voting against the bill sponsored by House Natural Resources Committee Chairman Nick Rahall (D-WVA), from coal country, was the extra junk added. Opponents say the bill adds new barriers to drilling. New fees on both onshore and offshore production are included. An interesting amendment approved was from Rep Charlie Melancon (D-LA. It lifts the moratorium immediately that meet new standards for safety. The GOP pushed for an outright lifting of the ban.

"With this bill, Democrats are exploiting the Gulf oil spill tragedy as a political opportunity to push through provisions that are unrelated to the spill response or reforms to offshore drilling. The latest version of the CLEAR Act imposes job-killing changes and higher taxes for onshore by the Forest Service and Bureau of Land Management, which affects not just leasing for natural gas and oil.", said Doc Hastings.

Speaker of the House
stripped out the provision to name a commission of technical experts to study the oil spill - in direct contrast to the Obama administration's commission comprised of non-techs. Rep. Doc Hastings (R-Wash.), top Republican on the Natural Resources Committee said the Obama’s administration’s commission was set up to protect the President.

“By deleting the bipartisan, independent oil spill commission that’s received bipartisan support in both House and Senate committees, Democrats have shown they are more interested in protecting the President than getting independent answers to what caused this tragic Gulf spill. Some of the biggest failures that contributed to the Gulf disaster are the direct responsibility of the federal government and by deleting this bipartisan, independent commission, Democrats ensure that only the President’s hand-picked commission will be digging into any failures of his own Interior Department appointees. There is widespread agreement that no member of the President’s commission possesses technical expertise in oil drilling, and several are on the record in opposition to offshore drilling and support a moratorium that will cost thousands of jobs,” Hastings said.

Next, the bill goes for a vote in the Senate, where it has been pulled from a vote by Majority Leader Reid. The voting timeline is now uncertain.

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