Majority Leader Harry Reid (D-Nev.) is calling on the Senate’s key committee leaders to come up with a comprehensive energy strategy by July 4, accelerating the push for legislation in wake of the worst oil spill in American history.
Reid demanded “swift” action from Democrats “to address both the existing situation and to reduce the risks of such a catastrophe happening again.”
That’s the Politico story on the letter Reid wrote Thursday to “Committee leaders Max Baucus, Jeff Bingaman, Barbara Boxer, Chris Dodd, Patrick Leahy, Joe Lieberman, Blanche Lincoln and John Rockefeller.”
Here is the full letter:
June 3, 2010
Dear Chairmen Baucus, Bingaman, Boxer, Dodd, Leahy, Lieberman, Lincoln and Rockefeller:
As you know, I hope to bring comprehensive clean energy legislation before the full Senate later this summer. As your Committee works to develop that legislation, I think it is extremely important that you each examine what could be included in a comprehensive energy bill that would address the unfolding disaster in the Gulf of Mexico. The economic, social and environmental devastation occurring there now due to the oil pollution is unprecedented. I believe it is important that your Committee see what can be done to address both the existing situation and to reduce the risks of such a catastrophe happening again.
Among the actions I think we need to explore are ensuring that the oil companies’ are held accountable for their actions and the damages caused by their operations. This may require adjusting current law to more accurately assess and address the damages caused by failures, to ensure the swift and fair compensation of people and communities for their oil pollution related losses, and to update relevant criminal and civil penalty structures. In addition, we must make sure that effective federal safety standards are in place and effectively enforced and that we are better equipped to avert, detect and adequately respond to disastrous failures in the future.
As you know, we are grossly overdependent on oil for our energy needs, in part because the oil companies have chosen not to invest their massive profits in the domestic production of clean and renewable alternative fuels that would make our nation more secure and reduce the risks of environmental disasters. This overdependency would not be so grave an economic and national security threat except that the United States has less than 3% of the world’s oil reserves, yet consumes approximately 25% of the world’s oil production. This grave imbalance means we send hundreds of billions of dollars overseas to pay for oil every year instead of investing in clean energy jobs at home.
Clearly we cannot now afford to halt the domestic oil production that can be done safely and responsibly, but we can demand that companies operating in deepwater invest in the development and deployment of emergency response technologies and safety procedures that are sufficient to handle worst case scenarios. But, to avoid more disasters and to reduce our vulnerability to the obvious and hidden costs of oil, we must move much more quickly to kick the oil habit as soon as possible and push harder for the production of affordable alternative fuels and advanced vehicles.
I would ask that you provide any recommendations or report legislation, if desired, in your Committee’s jurisdiction, before the Fourth of July recess to address the challenges that I have laid out above so it can be incorporated into a comprehensive clean energy bill for consideration during the July work period. We must act soon to ensure there are no statutory impediments to quick action in the Gulf of Mexico and to moving forward rapidly on a safer, cleaner and more secure energy policy.
No mention of climate change, of course or a price on carbon pollution, unlike Obama’s recent pitch (see “Obama begins spill-to-bill pivot: BP oil disaster means we must end our dependence on fossil fuels“). So while the chances for an energy bill has certainly risen sharply in the last month, the prospects for a shrinking cap on carbon and a rising price on carbon pollution remain uncertain. If Obama really wants it, he will have to eschew the hand-off policy he has adopted for major pieces of legislation to date and lobby early and often for a genuine climate bill.