As the political fallout over the BP oil spill continues, Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid called on his committee chairmen Thursday to develop new recommendations for climate change legislation that he hopes to bring up “later this summer.”
“As your Committee works to develop that legislation, 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,” the Nevada Democrat wrote in a letter to eight chairmen. He asked that the group submit recommendations before the July Fourth recess.
Any new legislation should hold oil companies accountable for the costs of any future spills and should require that those companies adhere to stricter safety standards, Reid suggests in the letter. Eleven workers were killed in the Deepwater Horizon explosion that rocked the Gulf Coast on April 20. The spill is now considered the worst environmental disaster in U.S. history.
“To avoid more disasters and to reduce our vulnerability to the obvious and hidden costs of oil, we must move much more quickly to kick the oil habit as soon as possible and push harder for the production of affordable alternative fuels and advanced vehicles,” wrote Reid, who is facing a tough re-election battle this year.
While the House passed a climate change bill last year, the Senate has yet to act. Reid has kept climate change on the agenda, but the issue’s ranking appeared to slip after Sen. Lindsey Graham (R-S.C.) walked away from supporting a bipartisan package he helped craft with Sens. John Kerry (D-Mass.) and Joe Lieberman (ID-Conn.).
Reid will meet with the committee chairmen next week to discuss that package, and he is expected to bring the issue up to the entire Democratic Conference the following week.
Reid’s letter also comes one day after President Barack Obama tried to channel the outrage over the Gulf Coast spill into momentum for energy reform. In a speech at Pittsburgh’s Carnegie Mellon University, Obama vowed to rally Members on Capitol Hill to pass a bill this year.
Reid’s letter was sent to: Finance Chairman Max Baucus (D-Mont.), Energy Chairman Jeff Bingaman (D-N.M.), Environment and Public Works Chairman Barbara Boxer (D-Calif.), Banking Chairman Chris Dodd (D-Conn.), Judiciary Chairman Patrick Leahy (D-Vt.), Agriculture Chairman Blanche Lincoln (D-Ark.), Commerce Chairman Jay Rockefeller (D-W.Va.), and Lieberman, the Homeland Security and Governmental Affairs chairman.