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Panel Approves Key Oil Spill Response Bill, Oil Industry Raises Opposition

This morning, the House Natural Resources Committee approved wide-ranging drilling reform legislation, which will likely be a major component of a broader House oil-spill response package, in a 27 to 21 vote.

The bill, the Consolidated Land, Energy, and Aquatic Resources (CLEAR) Act, is already coming under fire from the oil industry, which argues that it would result in significant job losses. The American Petroleum Institute, the industry’s powerful trade group, released a statement immediately after the bill passed arguing that “provisions of the legislation will kill jobs, stifle economic recovery and punish an already-reeling Gulf Coast community.”

The Independent Petroleum Association of America, which represents independent oil and gas producers, followed suit, arguing that the legislation is short-sighted. “[T]he CLEAR Act is focused more on perceived short-term political gain than on actual solutions. … Unfortunately, leaders in Congress are now legislating in a vacuum, as the cause of the ongoing Gulf incident has yet to be determined.”

The CLEAR Act, authored by Rep. Nick Rahall (D-W.V.), the committee chair, was originally introduced in Sept. 2009, but was updated last month in light of the Gulf oil spill. The bill would restructure the now-defunct Minerals Management Service into three distinct bureaus in order to separate the service’s environmental review, permitting and revenue collection functions. Here’s a section-by-section summary of the bill.

Passage of the CLEAR Act comes as House Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.) is meeting today with five key committee chairs to discuss the path forward for a broad oil spill response package.

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