KTUU: Begich, Murkowski agree on need for oil spill legislation

ANCHORAGE, Alaska -- As the U.S. Senate kicks off its August break, Sen. Mark Begich says oil spill legislation is at the top of its to-do list once the recess is over.

At a press conference Friday, Begich said lawmakers have been working together to form legislation that would hold the oil industry responsible in the event of an oil spill like the one in the Gulf of Mexico. The Senate spent last week working on a draft of a bill, and it was completed Friday.

Begich says the bill addresses about 85 percent of the public's concerns, and it will take a lot of people to make it all come together. He also says the draft includes a back-end escrow -- money that oil companies would set aside to cover any liability if recovery funds are exhausted.

"Most of us agree on the basic principle, and that is unlimited liability -- that taxpayers never pick up a dime, that the industry needs to pay for this in a cooperative way. And that the resources that are put aside are for economic damage and harm that are done to areas that are affected by any spill or blowout," Begich said.

Sen. Lisa Murkowski agrees with Begich that lawmakers must act to quickly address the lingering issues from the Gulf of Mexico spill when they return from summer recess.

She says plugging the ruptured well is good news but regulatory structures still need work, and there are liability issues and a drilling moratorium to address.

Murkowski helped pen parts of a GOP energy bill heavy on spill-related provisions. Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid pushed another bill with provisions like energy efficiency rebates.

Reid's push didn't have the support to advance and was dropped this week.

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Source: By Channel 2 News staff and The Associated Press. Originally published August 07, 2010