The New Direction Congress is working to ensure that BP and other responsible parties--and not taxpayers--are held accountable to pay for the disaster cleanup and costs related to this spill. We are also launching a clean energy future to make America more secure, create millions of clean energy jobs here at home and address the climate crisis.
In the wake of the BP disaster, Congress is acting on its commitment to protect America's families and businesses, rebuild the Gulf Coast, hold BP and oil companies accountable, and work to ensure that a spill of this kind never happens again.
- Contains strong new safety measures, including independent certification of critical equipment
- Holds BP and oil industry fully responsible for cleanup costs and recovery after spills - removing the $75 million cap on economic damages to be paid by Big Oil to families and small businesses
- Strengthens oversight of oil drilling by dismantling the current scandal ridden agency in charge
- Restores the Gulf Coast and protects local residents and
- Provides long overdue taxpayer protections, making oil companies pay their fair share for drilling on public lands
Not only is this good for our families, our environment, and the health of our natural resources, it will reduce our deficit--saving taxpayers more than $5 billion in the next five years (CBO), and up to $50 billion over the next 25 years (GAO).
This builds on legislation already passed by the House to:
- ensure fair compensation to the families of those killed or injured in the BP spill,
- ensure aid to the Gulf, tough oversight for BP, and ample resources to respond to the spill,
- develop new methods and technologies to clean up oil spills and
- help us develop safer drilling technologies and prevent an accident such as the BP disaster from ever happening again.
CLEAR Act Summary
The CLEAR Act will increase safety, help restore the Gulf Coast, crack down on ethical lapses, require businesses to be responsible for their actions, and close royalty loopholes to ensure the American people receive their fair share for drilling and other extraction of public resources. (This incorporates provisions from the “Blowout Prevention Act of 2010” (H.R. 5626) by Chairman Waxman, which was reported unanimously by the House Energy and Commerce Committee Chairman on July 15, 2010 by a vote of 48 to 0, and provisions from the “Oil Spill Accountability and Environmental Protection Act of 2010” (H.R. 5629) by Chairman Oberstar, which was reported by voice vote by the House Transportation and Infrastructure Committee on July 1, 2010.)
- New Oil Drilling Safety Standards: Directly responds to the Deepwater Horizon disaster while also looking forward and attempting to prevent the next catastrophe. The bill would require strong new safety standards for offshore drilling, including independent certifications of critical equipment, demonstrations of the ability to respond to future blowouts or major spills, increased inspections, stiffer penalties for safety violations, and an end to the practice of issuing environmental waivers for drilling plans. It would require all vessels and rigs off U.S. coasts - even foreign owned ones -- to fully adhere to U.S. safety standards. The legislation provides for training to help ensure that only fully qualified individuals serve as federal oil and gas inspectors under strict ethical standards.
- Holding BP Accountable, Eliminating Outdated Liability Limits: Ensures that American taxpayers are not left on the hook to bail out oil companies by increasing liability limits and financial responsibility requirements on offshore facilities; responsible parties will cover 100 percent of the oil pollution cleanup costs and damages caused by spills they create. Specifically, the bill removes the current $75 million cap on economic damages to be paid to residents and small businesses by oil companies after oil spills and increases to $300 million the financial responsibility offshore operators must demonstrate in most cases.
- Reforming Federal Oversight of Oil Drilling/MMS: Abolishes the scandal-ridden Minerals Management Service (MMS) and divides it into three separate entities to eliminate conflicts-of-interest: one to manage leasing & permitting; another to do the policing of health, safety, and environmental regulations; and a third to collect the American people's energy revenues.
- Mineral Management Service Ethics Reform: Takes aggressive steps to crack down on the extreme misconduct at the Mineral Management Service - the agency charged with collecting royalties from oil and gas companies. The CLEAR Act contains a strong “revolving door” provision that would add a 2-year ban on accepting employment with certain companies. That provision would also add new recusal requirements and provide stricter penalties for violations. Recently the Interior Inspector General raised serious concerns about the “ease with which [safety inspectors] move between industry and government,” while press reports have shown that three out of four oil and gas industry lobbyists had previously worked in the federal government.
- Strengthening Oil Spill Commission: Adds teeth to the President's Commission on the Deepwater Horizon oil spill by giving the Commission subpoena power so they can get the answers they need to get to the bottom of what actually happened. The House passed similar legislation (H.R. 5481) on June 23, 2010. It also requires the commission to: consult regularly with the experts looking into the oil spill at the National Association of Engineers and National Research Council; hire staff with technical expertise in petroleum engineering, rig safety, or drilling; and report to Congress on recommendations to ensure effective oversight, inspection, monitoring, and response capabilities.
- Restoring the Gulf & Coastal Communities: Establishes a Gulf of Mexico Restoration Program to coordinate the efforts to return the Gulf to health following the oil rig explosion. It also works to ensure that fees from offshore drilling go toward protecting and improving our oceans, as they are critical to the health and economic livelihoods of our coastal communities.
- Royalty Reform, Making Oil Companies Pay Their Fair Share for Drilling on Public Lands: Closes royalty loopholes that allow oil companies to drill for free on public lands during times of high oil prices due to a flawed Republican energy bill in 1995. Consumers paying high gas prices that fuel record profits should not be shortchanged by receiving no royalty on the sale of the public's oil. Taxpayers for Common Sense has urged Congress to pass the CLEAR Act and stop the $50 billion giveaway to the oil and gas industry.
- Cleanup Safety: Establishes new procedures for the use of chemical dispersants to ensure their safety to water quality and the environment.
- Land and Water Conservation Fund: Makes good on the promise made over 45 years ago that money obtained from the sale of the public's resources be used to protect and conserve our natural, historical, and recreational resources by providing mandatory full funding for the Land and Water Conservation Fund (LWCF) and the Historic Preservation Fund (HPF). This is about a commitment to offset some of the destructive effects of oil and gas production by preserving places with high quality recreation opportunities and vital wildlife habitat. At last, we will be able to ensure that the entire American public sees a return from the private use of our nation's Outer Continental Shelf resources.
- Supporters: A range of public interest, environmental, and sportsmen organizations, including Taxpayers for Common Sense, Project on Government Oversight, Defenders of Wildlife, Environment America, Gulf Coast Environmental Defense, National Parks Conservation Association, National Resources Defense Council, the Ocean Conservancy, and Wilderness Society.