Libby Casey, APRN – Washington DC
Senator Lisa Murkowski and her fellow Republicans are slamming the energy and oil spill bill unveiled Tuesday night by the top Senate Democrat. Harry Reid of Nevada gave up on passing a major climate bill this summer due to lack of support, so instead introduced a bill with minor energy goals, like incentives to make homes more efficient. It also includes oil spill legislation that would affect operators in Alaska. It would remove the current $75 million liability cap on economic damages from an oil spill. Senator Murkowski says that will cut out small operators, and enable more foreign companies to set up shop on America’s shores.
Murkowski’s Energy Committee has created its own version of a spill bill. So has Senator Mark Begich’s Commerce Committee, which finished marking up or editing a bill of its own on Tuesday night. Begich says while Reid used some of their ideas, the provisions for Alaska were left out. He calls it “pretty thin.”
Begich says instead of sharing the profits of offshore drilling with states, shared revenue would go into a conservation fund to buy more federal land. Begich says there’s already plenty of that.
He’s also concerned because the Reid bill does not include funding for Alaska’s Regional Citizens Advisory Councils, which were set up after the Exxon Valdez oil spill.
Begich wants to establish an Arctic Citizens Advisory Council so locals have input into Arctic Ocean development. But Governor Sean Parnell is criticizing that plan. His special assistant Joe Balash says it could disrupt the state’s authority – and doesn’t allow the governor to appoint its members.
Begich disagrees, and says the Governor is probably misinformed about how it would work.
Senator Reid hopes to move quickly on his energy – oil spill bill, but he’ll need the support of members like Begich, and the Senate only has one more week in Washington before it recesses for a month.
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