Barrasso slams spill commission, says members weren't experts on drilling

The commission’s two chairmen will testify Wednesday before the Senate Energy and Natural Resources Committee — which Barrasso is a member of — and the House Natural Resources Committee.

Barrasso has for months been critical of the bipartisan panel that President Obama created last year to probe the BP oil spill, alleging it was stacked with drilling foes.

But his new attacks come as the panel’s leaders are trying to sell their ideas — not all of which require legislation — on Capitol Hill.

The seven-member commission’s final report this month includes several proposals for further toughening regulatory oversight, enabled by increased fees on the offshore oil-and-gas industry (a funding idea that a senior House Republican rebuffed over the weekend).

Other ideas include a significant increase in the $75 million liability cap on economic damages from offshore spills, and greater input from the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration and other agencies into leasing and development decisions, among many others. Former Florida Sen. Bob Graham (D) and William Reilly, a Republican who headed EPA under former President George H.W. Bush, are the commission's co-chairmen.

Barrasso also alleged the Obama administration is thwarting domestic oil-and-gas production. Republicans and some Democrats are pressuring the Interior Department to resume permitting for deepwater drilling projects in the Gulf of Mexico.

“They want to invest in green energy at the same time they're killing the red, white and blue energy jobs that are so important to this country,” Barrasso said.

He also used the interview to preview what he called “sweeping” legislation he'll offer that would prevent federal agencies from using the Clean Air Act, the National Environmental Policy Act and other statutes to address climate change.

Barrasso and other critics of greenhouse gas curbs say EPA regulations will harm the economy. He accused the administration of using regulations “over the will of the American people.”