National Journal: Senate Hearing To Probe Oil Rig Explosion

A Senate Energy and Natural Resources Committee hearing next Thursday on offshore drilling will take on a larger significance in light of the oil rig explosion in the Gulf of Mexico and the subsequent leak that officials estimate could reach the Louisiana shoreline by Friday. Interior Secretary Ken Salazar is scheduled to testify.

In a press release today, the panel's top Republican, Lisa Murkowski, called it "critical that we take every possible precaution to guard against similar accidents." But she stopped short of criticizing offshore drilling itself, arguing that deepwater exploration "has become critical to our nation's energy supply." In an interview with NationalJournal.com on Tuesday, Murkowski also defended the practice of offshore drilling despite the gulf accident.

The ENR hearing was scheduled before the Deepwater Horizon oil rig exploded in the gulf last week, and Murkowski spokesman Robert Dillon said the senator is not requesting a special investigation. He pointed to ongoing inquiries by the Minerals Management Service, the Coast Guard and both the owner and operator of the oil rig, Transocean and BP, respectively. The Homeland Security Department is also investigating. "In the future, if the full story is not forthcoming, then seeking a special investigation is a possibility," Dillon said in an e-mail.

Other lawmakers have already started calling for investigations, including Sen. Bill Nelson, D-Fla., and House Energy and Commerce Chairman Henry Waxman, D-Calif. Florida representatives are citing the accident as grounds to reconsider President Obama's expanded offshore drilling plan, announced last month.

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Source: By Amy Harder. Originally published April 29, 2010