WASHINGTON (Reuters) - Oil industry drilling practices are expected to come under intense scrutiny after the massive spill that BP Plc is still struggling to contain two weeks after it started with the deadly explosion, fire and sinking of the Deepwater Horizon exploration platform.
The spill from the ruptured well is threatening Gulf Coast fishing and tourism and is likely to dramatically alter the U.S. political debate on offshore drilling.
Here are some immediate responses and calls for action from leading government and company officials on the spill:
CONGRESSIONAL LEGISLATION INTRODUCED
On May 5 U.S. lawmakers in the House of Representatives introduce legislation similar to an effort in the Senate that would force BP to pay hefty damages from the Gulf oil spill.
Both the White House and Congressional leadership signaled support.
The House bill, like legislation introduced in the Senate, would raise the maximum amount of money BP could be required to dole out for economic losses caused by the spill to $10 billion from $75 million.
MOVEMENT IN U.S. CONGRESS
* Democratic Senator Bill Nelson of Florida on May 3 asked the Interior Department’s inspector general to investigate whether regulations covering backup systems to cap underwater wells were adequate.
U.S. lawmakers are concerned that a lax government regulation that did not require BP to use a remote control “trigger” to shut an underwater pipe may have exacerbated the spreading oil spill in the Gulf of Mexico. A $500,000 acoustic trigger may have allowed workers escaping from the burning rig by boat to send a remote signal 5,000 feet below the water’s surface to close the valve and stop the oil.
The House Oversight and Investigations Reform Committee is also investigating and wants to know why the Interior Department has not mandated the shut-off switches.
* U.S. Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid on April 30 called for a reexamination of offshore drilling in the wake of the spreading oil slick. “This terrible event will, undoubtedly, require us to reexamine how we extract our nation’s offshore energy resources and will have to be taken into consideration with any legislation that proposes to open new areas to development,” Reid, a Democrat, said in a statement.
Governor Arnold Schwarzenegger announced on May 3 that he no longer supports a plan to expand drilling off California’s coast.
The Republican governor of the most populous U.S. state had been calling for more oil drilling off the coast of Santa Barbara and drilling would have raised money for the cash-strapped state.
WHITE HOUSE IMPOSES TEMPORARY BAN, INSPECTIONS
The White House announced on April 30 that there would be no oil drilling authorized in new areas until a review of the spill in the Gulf of Mexico had been conducted. President Barack Obama in March unveiled plans for a limited expansion of offshore oil drilling, in part to try to win Republican support for climate change legislation.
The Interior Department has begun conducting inspections of all 30 deepwater drilling rigs and 47 deep water production platforms in the Gulf of Mexico. The 30-day review will not actually stop any production unless serious work safety and environmental violations are found, said officials.
BP SAYS IT WILL PAY
BP declares on April 30 that it will compensate all parties affected by its oil spill in the Gulf of Mexico. “We are taking full responsibility for the spill and we will clean it up, and where people can present legitimate claims for damages we will honor them,” BP CEO told Reuters.
Compiled by Russell Blinch; editing by Jim Marshall
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