The co-chairs of the presidential panel that investigated last year’s devastating Gulf of Mexico oil spill are urging lawmakers not to drag their feet in dealing with the hazards of offshore drilling.
The panel’s leaders — ex-Sen. Bob Graham, D-Fla., and former Environmental Protection Agency boss William Reilly, a Republican — appeared before Senate and House panels on Wednesday, urging lawmakers to increase oversight of the oil industry, boost funding for regulators and create an industry-led safety institute.
Without changes, Reilly told lawmakers, “you’d be running a big risk.”
“Don’t use the fact that there’s always more that you can learn as an excuse to do nothing,” Graham said.
According to the Houston Chronicle, Graham and Reilly have had several meetings with the White House and oil industry heavyweights, but this marked their first appearance before Congress since their panel’s final report was released on Jan. 11.
The two chairmen had a cool reception from GOP lawmakers, who argued that more time was needed to study the issue, and charged that the commission was stacked with ideological foes of offshore drilling. “[We need] to have all the facts and information surrounding the cause of this incident before there is a rush to judgment or a rush to legislate,” said Rep. Doc Hastings, R-Wash., who chairs of the House Natural Resources Committee.
Reilly, however, said that a take-it-slow attitude could allow a repeat of the April Deepwater Horizon explosion that killed 11 oil workers and precipitated the largest oil spill in U.S. history. The chairs also rejected the accusation that their work was influenced by a predetermined bias against offshore drilling.
The panel headed by Graham and Reilly has a limited window for action; in March, it is scheduled to lose its staff and office space.
Democratic lawmakers in the House introduced a proposal to adopt the panel’s recommendations. Similar legislation passed in the House last year, but with the chamber now in Republican hands, the road to passage will likely be more difficult.