Waxman: Oil spill could result in new legislation

A top House chairman said Tuesday that new legislation to regulate offshore energy exploration may result from a massive oil spill in the Gulf of Mexico.

Rep. Henry Wazman (D-Calif.), the chairman of the House Energy and Commerce Committee, said that the spill and subsequent inquiries into the accident that are being held by Congress, could propel new rules on drilling.

"They may well result in new legislation," Waxman said on KCPP public radio in Los Angeles.

Waxman's committee will hold hearing with executives from BP, the company which leased an oil rig which exploded last month, triggering leaks which led to the oil spill, and officials from other firms involved in the situation.

Those officials appeared Tuesday before the Senate Energy and Natural Resources Committee, where they faced some pointed questions from the committee's Democrats.

"We want to explore how this thing happened," Waxman said of his committee's hearing tomorrow. "They may be pointing fingers at each other, but we want to, as they say, drill down a little deeper."

Lawmakers have been considering a number of legislative responses to the ecological disaster, including raising the amount in monetary liability BP might face, and potential new regulations.

The Senate is also set to move forward with an energy and climate bill this year. Waxman was a coauthor of the House climat change legislation. The Senate bill includes provisions calling for some offshore drilling.

"I think what these hearings ought to do is underscore that we are so dependent on oil as an energy source that we subject ourselves to these disasters," Waxman said.