House Passes Biggest Overhaul of the Oil Industry in Decades

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. Congress has also been investigating the causes of the explosion, including the adequacy of the companies’ safety and emergency response measures, and conducting oversight of the recovery efforts. Today the House passed critical legislation responding to the inadequacies Committees uncovered in their investigations that will protect families living and working in the Gulf Coast and our waters.

The CLEAR Act passed by a vote of 209-193. The CLEAR Act:

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

Provides long overdue taxpayer protections, making oil companies pay their fair share for drilling on public lands

Speaker Pelosi in support of the legislation:

This legislation is about safety — about establishing new safety standards. Safety for the workers on the rigs and safety for those in the clean-up have been a priority for us in all of the legislation that has come to the floor in response to the spill.

It's about integrity — integrity of the representations made by BP — whether it's about the effectiveness of the drilling, whether it's about the prevention of a blow-out, or whether it's about the integrity of their representations about the integrity of the clean-up. What would happen if such a spill were to occur and do we have the technology to clean up?

It's also about the integrity of the infrastructure — that the infrastructure would do what it is designed to do: drill, prevent blow-outs, and of course, respond to it. So there has been a lack of integrity on both parts in terms of what was –representations that were made and the integrity of the infrastructure. This legislation addresses that.

It's about accountability. Reforming the Minerals Management Service is really a very important part of this legislation. Some of this was addressed by President Obama in having an executive order to this effect or administrative policy to this effect. Now, it is in statute. Very, very important. Because that accountability about who sets the standards, about who makes sure that those standards are met — is very, very important to us honoring our responsibility to the American people.

And it's about the families — and this always comes down to people — who have suffered so much — by removing a cap when economic damage is paid by oil companies to residents and small businesses affected by the oil spills. The CLEAR Act is good for families, our environment, and the health of our natural resources in many ways.

In addition to being good for our families, our environment, and the health of our natural resources, the CLEAR Act also reduces 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). The House rebuffed a Republican Motion to Recommit on the CLEAR Act, which would have lifted the Administration's temporary moratorium on deepwater drilling in the Gulf of Mexico.

The House also passed the Offshore Oil and Gas Worker Whistleblower Protection Act by a vote of 315-93. Workers on the Deepwater Horizon rig had serious safety concerns prior to the explosion, but were reluctant to come forward with those concerns, which resulted in the death of 11 Americans. As Chairman George Miller, co-sponsor of the bill said, “a whistleblower may be the only thing standing between a safe workplace and a catastrophe. No worker should ever have to choose between his life and his livelihood.” This bill extends whistleblower protections to workers regarding Outer Continental Shelf oil and gas exploration, drilling, production, or cleanup, whose employers are engaged in those activities–as they are in the best position to uncover safety hazards. Chairman Miller's floor speech against the Republican Motion to Recommit, which would have greatly weakened the whistleblower protections:

Learn more about the Consolidated Land, Energy, and Aquatic Resources Act (CLEAR Act)»

Learn more about the Offshore Oil and Gas Worker Whistleblower Protection Act»