Commission Discusses Oil Spill Prevention

Libby Casey, APRN – Washington DC

The commission put together by President Obama to look at the BP oil blowout in the Gulf of Mexico and how to prevent future spills talked over Arctic development on Monday.  At a Washington, D.C hearing, commissioner Fran Ulmer, who’s also the chancellor of the University of Alaska Anchorage and served as the state’s Lieutenant Governor, asked Alaska Senator Mark Begich about bills he’s proposed to better protect against spills up north.

Begich says he expects to see energy legislation at the end of this year or early next year, which may contain some items he’s pushing, like increasing the financial liability for oil corporations and requiring the companies to establish independent escrow accounts for spill victim compensation.  But Begich says the Obama Administration shouldn’t wait for Congress to act before it allows development plans to start moving forward.

The Vice President of Shell Oil Alaska, Pete Slaiby, says the delay is costing Shell three-quarters of a million dollars a day.  He told the panel Shell is taking extra precautions so that when work can go forward, it’s exceeding federal guidelines.

But the mayor of the North Slope Borough, Mayor Edward Itta, testified by video-conference from his office in Alaska. He voiced concerns that the Arctic’s extreme conditions will make any oil spill cleanup much more difficult than in the Gulf of Mexico.

Salazar put a halt on Arctic drilling plans until a study is completed in March on Arctic oil issues.  The National Commission on offshore drilling and the BP Deepwater Horizon Spill plans to submit a report to President Obama on its findings later this year.

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