The House of Representative passed its oil spill response bill last Friday night, including an amendment to end the Obama Administration's temporary moratorium on deepwater drilling. However, the oil spill bill has stalled in the Senate. Passage of the bill may not occur until the fall. The government recently introduced the scaled-back oil spill bill in place of broad energy legislation in the hopes of passing something more quickly.
The House vote showed Democrats from oil states pushing back against some of the harsher aspects of the oil spill bill, including the unlimited liability cap. Senator Robert Menendez (D-NJ), the author of the liability cap provision, is negotiating with oil-state Democrats, including Mary Landrieu (D-LA), who wants to prevent insurance costs from driving small and medium-sized independent oil and gas producers out of business.
Thirty Democrats objected to the unlimited liability provision of the oil spill bill.The House oil spill bill included an amendment allowing oil and gas operators to create insurance pools to help keep insurance costs down. The House bill only got 209 votes, eight shy of the 217 needed for a majority of all House Members, but passed the House with enough representatives absent from the vote. The House also passed an amendment to end the deepwater drilling moratorium by a vote of 216 to 195. It would require the Secretary of the Interior to issue decisions on permits to drill within 30 days. However, Capitol Hill watchers say the amendment is broad enough to allow the federal ban on deepwater drilling to last its full six months, even as it shows political opposition to the measure in large numbers. BP announced on Friday, July 30, the creation of a $100 million charitable fund for workers who lost their jobs as a result of the federal bad on deepwater drilling.