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Environmentalists use offshore spill to push onshore regulations

July 26, 2010
The Gulf of Mexico oil spill has given environmentalists new hope in pushing for more stringent regulations on oil and gas production in the United States.

From the Associated Press via The Washington Post:

Drilling for oil and gas often occurs in residential areas, yet it uses large volumes of toxic chemicals and creates large amounts of toxic waste, Earthjustice, the Sierra Club, The Wilderness Society and others wrote in a letter Wednesday to House Speaker Nancy Pelosi and Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid.

The groups want more onshore drilling regulation to accompany new rules offshore.

"Although onshore incidents may not make national headlines, communities across the United States regularly experience tragic incidents of their own," they wrote.

Drinking water contamination, air pollution, well blowouts and spills have been happening onshore within the past few months, they said.

Giving more oversight to the federal regulators who failed to prevent the Gulf disaster would be a bad idea, said an industry group, the Western Energy Alliance.

"It doesn't make sense to take more control away from state oil and gas regulators and give it to the federal agency that just oversaw the worst environmental catastrophe in the history of our nation," Marc Smith, executive director of the alliance, said Friday.

He pointed out that 17 Democratic representatives wrote to Pelosi and House Majority Leader Steny Hoyer on Wednesday, urging the leaders not to have a "knee-jerk" reaction by passing "extraneous proposals" restricting onshore energy development.

What Congress really should do, Smith said, is pass a more predictable process for oil, gas and renewable energy development on public land, one that helps companies be more certain about whether their plans can move ahead.

"That's the real reform that's needed," he said.
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