WASHINGTON — Democrats in Congress pledged Tuesday to push for tougher regulation of offshore drilling and to make oil companies more financially responsible for spills — steps a presidential panel says are necessary to prevent another catastrophic blowout.
The National Oil Spill Commission unanimously endorsed 15 recommendations to the oil industry, Congress and the Obama administration for preventing another large-scale oil spill. Most require action by Congress, but some could be done independently by the Obama administration, commissioners said.
The 380-page report provides an opening for Democrats to rekindle legislative efforts that failed after last year's oil spill, the largest offshore incident in U.S. history. But they'll face an even tougher road to passage this year, with a Republican majority in the House of Representatives set on cutting spending and reducing the government's regulation of business. Adding to their burden, rising gasoline prices are prompting calls for more domestic energy production.
Congress "must take action this year to prevent another catastrophic spill through smart regulation, and by giving regulators the tools and resources they need to do their jobs effectively," Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid said. He endorsed raising liability caps on oil companies, which BP waived after the Gulf disaster, "to ensure that taxpayers are never again on the hook for the damages caused by BP or any other oil company's missteps."