Reid: Gulf spill should ‘expedite’ energy bill

Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid (D-Nev.) said Tuesday the Gulf of Mexico oil spill should accelerate efforts to move energy legislation that boosts alternative sources.

Asked if the spill endangers the legislative effort, he replied, “I think quite to the contrary. I think it should spur it on. We have to take care of this issue.”

Reid noted the Interior Department’s recent approval of a wind energy farm off the Massachusetts coast.

“I was happy to see what [Interior] Secretary Salazar did offshore, up in the Massachusetts area. And that took seven years to get that done. Alternative energy is what we need to move to as rapidly as we can,” Reid told reporters in the Capitol.

“So I think, rather than slow us up, I think it [the spill] should expedite our doing energy legislation,” he added.

But the broad energy and climate bill that Sens. John Kerry (D-Mass.), Joe Lieberman (I-Conn.) and Lindsey Graham (R-S.C.) have crafted contains measures to promote wider offshore drilling.

Their draft plan would give more states with offshore development in federal waters a slice of the leasing and royalty revenue.

Environmentalists and some coastal state Democrats are mounting new attacks on offshore drilling in the wake of the Gulf accident.

“I think we're all going to back off from offshore drilling until we get a better handle of how we can make it safe,” Reid said.

However, a Senate aide familiar with the Kerry-Graham-Lieberman plan said it would also allow states to pass laws that block lease sales within 75 miles of their coasts.