Gulf spill spurs Begich to introduce bills

Posted: Wednesday, July 07, 2010

FAIRBANKS - The massive oil spill in the Gulf of Mexico has prompted U.S. Sen. Mark Begich to introduce several bills aimed at making energy development safer.

Begich last month rolled out legislation that would put the Interior secretary in charge of assessing damage caused by a spill and determining how much money a company would have to deposit into an account to pay those affected.

Last week, the Alaska Democrat introduced two companion bills. One would raise an estimated $300 million annually for the Oil Spill Liability Trust Fund by requiring companies to deposit three cents into the account per domestic barrel of oil and seven cents per barrel of imported oil. The other bill would require NOAA and the U.S. Coast Guard to devise a plan in case of an oil spill and research the potential effect on Arctic wildlife.

The senator plans to introduce a fourth bill dealing with citizen oversight of oil and gas development.

The Gulf spill started April 20 with an explosion and fire aboard the Deepwater Horizon platform that killed 11 workers. Crude from the well has reached all the Gulf Coast states.

"As the nation continues to deal with the impacts of the Deepwater Horizon disaster, we also need to focus on the future energy needs of our country," Begich said in a statement. "Responsible oil and gas development has to be a part of a comprehensive energy policy, and putting in place the pieces to deal with oil spill research, planning and prevention, and the infrastructure development necessary to support it is part of moving forward on that path."

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