Oil-spill commission chiefs urge caution on House drilling bills

But Hastings has not yet sought to push broad drilling-safety legislation, noting recently that investigation into last year’s Deepwater Horizon disaster is still under way.

The National Commission on the BP Deepwater Horizon Oil Spill and Offshore Drilling, led by Reilly and Graham, wrapped up its report early this year and disbanded last month. But a joint Interior Department-U.S. Coast Guard probe remains under way.

Interior has issued a suite of beefed-up safety standards under its existing powers, and Secretary Ken Salazar and his top lieutenant on offshore drilling told reporters this week that they’re confident the tougher rules have lowered risks significantly.

But Salazar also knocked the GOP drilling legislation, and Interior officials are seeking continued help from Congress to boost resources and enact some changes that require legislation, such as expanding the period to review companies' offshore exploration plans.

Here is the full statement from Graham and Reilly:

"Efficient, expeditious review of permitting decisions for offshore oil development is critical to meet our country's demand for transportation fuels, and that is clearly an objective of the bills under consideration by the House Resources Committee.  And yet, as we approach the first anniversary of the BP Macondo oil spill, the worst oil spill in our history, we need to keep front and center that safety along with containment and response capabilities and effective, science-based environmental reviews are imperative if we are to develop the resources responsibly and minimize the risk of another disaster like the one that fouled the Gulf of Mexico, disrupting the region's economy.  

"Secretary of the Interior Salazar has taken many important steps to improve his Department's regulatory oversight and we urge Congress, as it considers legislation, to support his initiatives, to provide the necessary appropriations, and to incorporate the findings and recommendations of the BP Deepwater Horizon Oil Spill Commission, which sought to instill respect for safety and careful planning in drilling for oil off our shores.  Cutting corners in the permitting process will be counter-productive for the industry, the other stakeholders in the Gulf, and the American people."