Wicker Says Democrats Oil Spill Bill Misguided
Monday, August 2, 2010
Last week, I joined five other Senators in a press conference unveiling a Republican energy bill dealing with the BP oil spill. Our legislation contains common sense proposals to investigate the Deepwater Horizon disaster, implement lessons learned, and restore the economy and environment of our Gulf Coast. Later that day, Majority Leader Harry Reid presented a competing plan, which pushes an anti-drilling agenda that I feel would kill jobs and deepen the long-term impacts of the Gulf oil spill.
End the Job-Killing Moratorium
As a member of the Senate Small Business Committee, I participated in a recent hearing examining how the Administration’s offshore drilling moratorium will impact jobs. It was clear from the hearing that removing this moratorium would help ease the economic burden on the Gulf Coast. The Republican plan includes legislation I cosponsored last month to lift the drilling ban for companies that have complied with the government’s new safety requirements.
Offshore drilling is essential to creating jobs and strengthening our country’s energy security. According to a recent study by the Institute for Energy Research, the drilling moratorium may be more costly than the oil spill itself. The study estimates that in its first six months the ban may result in the loss of 8,000 jobs and $2.1 billion to the Gulf Coast region. At a time when unemployment is 11 percent in Mississippi, the Administration should not be supporting policies that would eliminate jobs.
I believe it is irresponsible of the President to proceed with the moratorium in defiance of federal courts and the recommendations of his own experts. It is clear that this moratorium is nothing more than an attempt to stop domestic energy production. Our legislation would help put people back to work who have been laid off by the Administration because of its drilling ban.
Save American Jobs and Strengthen Energy Security
The liability issue is an important distinction between the Republican and Democrat proposals. Under current law, BP is already fully liable for any costs related to the oil cleanup but is not legally responsible for all economic damages, such as loss of income. Although BP has volunteered to forgo any liability limits, Democrats are using this opportunity to remove all liability caps on companies that drill offshore. This idea may appear attractive at first blush, but I am not convinced it is sound policy.
With unlimited liabilities, small independent oil companies could be driven out of business because they would be unable to get insurance. This would leave only large global corporations or foreign government-backed entities in the market. Less competition in the oil and gas markets would lead to increased fuel prices. At a time when many Americans are struggling to make ends meet, a hike in energy prices would be devastating. Finally, removing the liability cap could ship American businesses overseas. As a result, the U.S. could lose its position as a leader in energy production, increasing our dependency on foreign oil.
The Republican proposal would give the Administration the authority to establish liability limits determined by actual risk-based factors. This would allow small independent oil producers to stay in business, protecting American jobs.
Preventing Another Disaster
The Republican plan also addresses ways to prevent future disasters. Our legislation would enhance our spill response capabilities by directing the Coast Guard to expand research and testing to prevent future spills. Additionally, our bill would establish a true bipartisan commission to investigate the oil spill, unlike the anti-drilling commission created by the President. We need credible, unbiased experts to help us understand what happened so we find the right solutions and implement the right policies.
After Hurricane Katrina devastated the Gulf almost five years ago, Congress focused on policies to support the recovery and rebuilding efforts. Congress should follow that same example today when responding to the oil spill, rather than use this disaster as an excuse to move unrelated and unnecessary provisions.
The people of the Gulf Coast are resilient, and I am confident that we will recover as we have done in the past. The damages caused by this spill will have long-term impacts, and the government should not compound the tragedy by implementing irresponsible, job-killing policies.