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Oil Rig Fire Prompts Fresh Calls for Drilling Ban

News of another major oil rig fire off the Louisiana coast has prompted fresh calls from Democrats to ban expanded offshore drilling.

Rep. Frank Pallone, responding to reports Thursday afternoon that the Coast Guard had spotted a “sheen” on a mile-long area of water near the Mariner Energy-owned rig, demanded action on his bill to ban offshore drilling. The New Jersey Democrat called the latest incident the result of “an accident waiting to happen.” Pallone introduced his legislation after the April 20 Gulf Coast Deepwater Horizon oil rig explosion.

“The environmental and economic damage caused by the Deepwater Horizon disaster hasn’t been fully calculated, and we have another explosion and another potential disaster,” he said. “How many accidents are needed and how much environmental and economic damage must we suffer before we act to contain and control the source of the danger: offshore drilling?”

In the wake of the Deepwater Horizon spill, the Obama administration tried to place a six-month ban on deep-water drilling, but a federal judge threw out the moratorium. The administration suffered another setback this week when a judge refused to dismiss a lawsuit challenging a new moratorium the administration imposed in July.

The latest oil rig fire also prompted a trio of House Democrats — Energy and Commerce Chairman Henry Waxman (Calif.), Energy and Environment Subcommittee Chairman Ed Markey (Mass.) and Oversight and Investigations Subcommittee Chairman Bart Stupak (Mich.) — to write to Mariner Energy CEO Scott Josey to request a briefing on the incident and possible causes by Sept. 10. Congress is scheduled to return from its August recess Sept. 13.

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