A ‘BP spill bill’ instead of a climate bill? [UPDATED]
Will Democratic leaders try to merge climate legislation with politically popular get-tough-on-BP measures? This morning Politico hints as much:
the strategy now will be to include climate provisions in a BP SPILL BILL tightening industry controls, on the theory the bill will be hard to oppose.
No such bill exists yet; this is mere strategizing. After all the time spent crafting the Kerry-Lieberman Senate bill to win industry support, lawmakers are unlikely to toss it aside. It’s more probable that measures to hold BP responsible for the Gulf spill and improve drilling safeguards would be folded into Kerry-Lieberman (the American Power Act). The hope is that Senate Republicans feel compelled to support such a bill — or pay the political price for voting against it.
What might the new measures be? The Center for American Progress, a D.C. think tank with close ties to the Obama administration, laid out several suggestions yesterday:
- Eliminate the liability limit for offshore oil disasters–current law caps oil spill liability at $75 million
- Require BP to put $5 billion–its first quarter 2010 profits–into an escrow fund to ensure prompt payments for clean up and compensation
- Adopt the recommendations for offshore oil well safety in the Interior Department’s “Increased Safety Measures for Energy Development on the Outer Continental Shelf” report, including better back-up systems and more complete inspections
- Implement fuel economy and alternatively fueled vehicle measures that will produce a 7 million barrel per day reduction in oil use by 2030 with interim reductions, and empower the president to implement these measures to reach that goal
- Significantly reduce oil use from vehicles by establishing 40 mile per gallon fuel economy standards for cars and light trucks by 2020, and establish the first fuel economy standards for trucks
- Power trucks and buses with natural gas by enacting the NAT GAS Act
- Power cars with electricity by enacting the Electric Vehicle Deployment Act
- Eliminate taxpayer subsidies that benefit big oil companies
- Invoke the Trade Expansion Act to levy a fee on imported oil, and use revenue from this fee to invest in public transit, high-speed rail, and infrastructure for electric and natural gas vehicles
President Obama mentioned a number of these — such as cutting tax subsidies to oil companies — in his speech in Pittsburgh yesterday. The political upside of holding Big Oil more accountable seems pretty obvious.
Update: Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid wants Gulf-spill responses added to the Kerry-Lieberman bill, The Hill reports:
Reid asked the chairmen to recommend legislation to deal with the Gulf oil spill before July 4 so that leaders can include those ideas in the comprehensive energy package.
“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,” Reid wrote in the letter.
“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,” Reid wrote.