Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid (D-NV) has fired off letters to the chairmen of key committees requesting that they make recommendations or report legislation before the Fourth of July recess that would address the “unfolding disaster in the Gulf of Mexico [GOM].”

He specifically asked Sen. Jeff Bingaman (D-NM), chairman of the Senate Energy and Natural Resources Committee, to examine what else could be included in the sweeping energy bill voted out of that committee last June, which would expand the production and consumption of renewable fuels, drilling in the eastern GOM, and oversight of energy markets and the national electricity transmission grid.(see Daily GPI, June 18, 2009).

“Among the actions I think we need to explore are ensuring that 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 damages caused by failures, to ensure the swift and fair compensation of people and communities, as well as updating criminal and civil penalties and enforcing federal safety standards” in the offshore, Reid said.

“We must act soon to ensure there are not statutory impediments,” he said.

“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,” Reid noted.

And “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 fuels,” he said.

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