By Mike Lillis
Though their plans for legislation to track health on the Gulf Coast are on hold, Democrats on the Energy and Commerce committee have hardly dropped the issue.
Instead, Reps. Henry Waxman (Calif.), Frank Pallone Jr. (N.J.) and Bart Stupak (Mich.) want information about the health effects surrounding another oil-related disaster: the 1989 Exxon Valdez spill.
In a Thursday letter to the Exxon Mobil Corp., the lawmakers requested "all documents related to health effects experienced by workers involved in the response to the Exxon Valdez oil spill."
The lawmakers want the information by July 14.
With tens of thousands of barrels of oil still spewing from the Gulf gusher each day — and with BP dumping more than a million gallons of dispersants to combat the spill — a growing number of lawmakers have expressed concerns that the workers and residents being exposed to the chemical might suffer long-term illnesses.
The Energy and Commerce Health Subcommittee had scheduled a Thursday markup on legislation requiring the Health and Human Services Department (HHS) to monitor and record the health conditions of those exposed to the spill, according to a draft version of the unreleased bill. But the panel canceled that meeting abruptly Wednesday night.
A spokeswoman for the committee said that, after discussions with HHS officials, "it wasn't clear that they needed the additional authority, so it was decided not to proceed with the markup."