US Senate panel plans hearing on gulf oil spill, policy implications

Nick Snow
OGJ Washington Editor

WASHINGTON, DC, Apr. 29 -- The US Senate Energy and Natural Resources Committee will hold a hearing on May 6 to review federal offshore oil and gas policies in response to the Apr. 20 semisubmersible drilling rig explosion and fire and subsequent crude oil spill in the Gulf of Mexico.

“As we look to expand exploration off our nation’s coasts, it’s critical that we take every possible precaution to guard against similar accidents,” Sen. Lisa Murkowski (R-Alas.), the committee’s ranking minority member, said on Apr. 29. “It’s imperative that we find out everything we can about what went wrong on the Deepwater Horizon.”

Murkowski announced the hearing 2 days after US Interior Secretary Ken Salazar and Homeland Security Secretary Janet Napolitano formally launched a joint investigation of the accident with the power to issue subpoenas, hold public hearings, call witnesses, and take other necessary steps to determine what caused an explosion and fire that left 11 workers missing, 3 critically injured, and an ongoing crude oil spill.

The US Department of the Interior’s Minerals Management Service and the Department of Homeland Security’s US Coast Guard have been working with the well’s operator, BP PLC, at the accident’s site since it occurred.

Salazar will be asked to testify at the upcoming hearing, according to Murkowski. “Deepwater exploration, which continues to expand the reach of drilling technology in the Gulf of Mexico, has become critical to our nation’s energy supply,” she said. “Because we depend on these domestic resources, it’s our responsibility to ensure they are produced as safely as possible.”

Contact Nick Snow at nicks@pennwell.com.

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