Congressional Democrats propose oil spill legislation

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House Energy and Commerce Committee Chairman Henry Waxman (D-CA) delivers an opening statement during a Commerce, Trade, and Consumer Protection Subcommittee hearing about 'The Motor Vehicle Safety Act.' May 6, 2010 in Washington, DC.

Congress adjourns for its summer recess in a few weeks. But today, Democrats in the House and Senate unveiled legislation designed to prevent another oil spill like the one in the Gulf of Mexico. The oil industry has already thrown tar on the proposals.

One provision of the House bill sets standards for blow-out preventers. BP blames the device’s failure for the Deepwater Horizon leak.

But the head of the American Petroleum Institute called the congressional response premature, like “going into surgery without a diagnosis.” He suggests waiting until a full investigation is complete.

In a conference call with reporters, Los Angeles Congressman Henry Waxman, who heads the Energy and Commerce Committee, dismissed those complaints. "Perhaps he’d like to have no minimum requirements, but I think that would be a mistake. And from our examination and our investigation, determined that these were the minimum requirements we wish BP had taken."

Bay Area Democrat George Miller, who heads the House Education and Labor Committee, says the bill also contains a provision to protect workers. "Unless you have a very good safety record," he says, "you will not be allowed to participate on America’s public lands on the outer continental shelf. And certainly with respect to BP, they brought a record to offshore exploration, drilling and production that is a horror show with respect to their workers and to the environment."

The bill would also retroactively lift liability limits for offshore drilling. The petroleum trade organization calls that a job killer.

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