Key House Republican objects to findings of oil-spill commission

A key House Republican is objecting to the findings of the Obama administration’s oil-spill commission, arguing that the panel's report should not lead to further delays in offshore drilling.

The commission this week blamed “systemic” problems within the oil industry for last year’s massive Gulf of Mexico oil spill. The full version of the report will be released Jan. 11, but it is already gaining significant attention among lawmakers on both sides of the aisle.

Rep. Joe Barton (R-Texas), chairman emeritus of the House Energy and Commerce Committee, said Sunday, “I would take issue with the word 'systemic.' ” Barton — who made the remarks during a pre-taped interview that ran Sunday on energyNOW!, an energy policy program — said the oil industry has an exemplary safety record, though he noted that the industry “has gotten a little lax.”

Asked if he would resume drilling, given the findings of the spill commission’s report, Barton said he would review permit applications on a “case-by-case basis” and allow those projects that meet new safety standards.

Rep. Jay Inslee (D-Wash.) took issue with Barton’s comments on the program. “This was really a systemic failure,” Inslee said, arguing that the American people are not “comfortable” with offshore drilling.

Later in the interview, Barton said his top energy-related priority this year will be stopping the Environmental Protection Agency from regulating greenhouse gas emissions.

“I will use my position as chairman emeritus on the Energy and Commerce Committee to try to bring some common sense to EPA regulations,” he said, arguing that efforts by the agency to reduce greenhouse gas emissions will “kill jobs.”

EPA has begun phasing in emissions rules that cover large industrial facilities like power plants and refineries.