OGJ Washington Editor
WASHINGTON, DC, July 23 -- The US House passed two bills on July 21 that would create research programs in response to the Macondo well blowout and resulting oil spill in the Gulf of Mexico. The House Science and Technology Committee approved the measures in bipartisan votes on July 14.
Although the bills were debated on the floor under suspended rules, precluding introduction of amendments, and passed by voice votes, they came out of the committee with several changes from both sides of the aisle.
The first bill, HR 2693, was an amended version of a measure committee member Lynn C. Woolsey (D-Calif.) introduced in 2009 which the committee passed but which did not receive full House consideration until now. It aims to strengthen research, development, and demonstration of innovative tools, methods, and technologies for oil spill cleanup.
“This effort could not be more urgent, especially considering the response to the BP spill has relied on the same methods and technologies used for the Exxon Valdez cleanup 21 years ago,” Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.) said following its adoption by the full House.
The second measure, HR 5716, is designed to launch an R&D effort to make deepwater drilling safer and prevent future oil spill disasters. Eleven workers died when the Deepwater Horizon semisubmersible exploded after BP PLC’s Macondo well blew out on Apr. 20.
Specifically, the bill would amend Section 999 of the 2005 Energy Policy Act, which authorized the US Energy secretary to establish an ultradeepwater and unconventional onshore oil and gas R&D program, according to Science and Technology Committee Chairman Bart Gordon (D-Tenn.).
Some of the research areas under HR 5716 include enhanced well control and integrity, blowout prevention devices, secondary control systems for well shut-off, technologies for accident mitigation, decision-making and risk management, and equipment testing for extreme conditions, he indicated.
“The recovery of these resources has resulted in significant benefits to taxpayers in the form of domestic jobs and affordable energy, as well as increasing royalties to the fund that pays for the program in the first place,” said Ralph M. Hall (R-Tex.), the committee’s ranking minority member.
“The changes to EPACT Section 999 made by HR 5716 are the product of extensive negotiations with the majority to develop compromise legislation in response to the Deepwater Horizon disaster,” he continued. “While the precise focus and detailed language in this bill are not ideal, it represents a fair and reasonable compromise that preserves and strengthens the program.”
Gordon said the two bills will help ensure that the federal government, oil and gas industry, and experts from academia will be better equipped to prevent and respond to future offshore accidents and crude oil spills.
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US House passes R&D bills in response to Macondo incident in gulf