Following recommendations from an independent commission that investigated last year's catastrophic Gulf oil spill, Rep. George Miller (D-CA) joined his Democratic colleagues today to introduce revised offshore drilling legislation to protect America's coastlines, local economies, and worker health and safety.
The legislation draws from the last year's House-passed CLEAR Act and is aligned with the recommendations made by the National Commission on the Deepwater Horizon Oil Spill.
The bill includes Miller's provision that would deny new offshore oil leases or drilling permits to British Petroleum (BP) or any other company with an egregious worker safety and environmental record. It also includes a provision written by Miller and Rep. Ed Markey (D-MA) to strengthen whistleblower protections for offshore oil and gas drilling workers.
"Last year, the House approved common sense reforms for deep water drilling on the outer continental shelf. Unfortunately, Republicans voted against it in the House and threatened to filibuster it in the Senate," Miller said at a Capitol Hill press conference this afternoon.
"Now we've heard from the independent oil spill commission that the reforms we tried to enact last year are greatly needed. There is no reason that oil and gas drilling companies, like BP, should not be held accountable for their actions in order to make offshore drilling safer for the environment, safer for workers, and safer for coastal communities. That is what my legislation would accomplish, and I would hope that the Committee Chairman give our bill immediate consideration."
Miller's provision would bar a company from drilling in the American Outer Continental Shelf (OCS) if its record indicated five times the industry average for willful or repeat worker safety violations at oil and gas facilities, if more than 10 fatalities occurred at any of its facilities as a violation of state or federal law, or if it incurred fines of $10 million or more under Clean Air Act or Clean Water Act within the preceding 7 years.
Miller and Markey said they are reintroducing companion oil drilling legislation to extend modern whistleblower protections to workers whose employers are engaged in oil and gas exploration, drilling, production, or cleanup on the Outer Continental Shelf. The legislation passed the House of Representatives last summer with a strong bipartisan vote of 315 to 93.
"The men and women who work on the oil rigs off the American shore in the outer continental shelf are absolutely entitled to the basic whistleblower protections in this bill," Miller said after introducing the legislation. "Why shouldn't these offshore workers have the same protections as other workers in other industries? A worker who speaks up may be the one to prevent another catastrophe. The President's BP Spill commission recommends these protections, Democrats and Republicans voted for the bill last summer, why isn't this protection already the law?"
Currently there is no federal law that protects oil and gas workers if they are retaliated against after they blow the whistle on workplace health and safety violations on the OCS. Miller held hearings last year that found that workers on the Deepwater Horizon rig had serious safety concerns prior to the explosion and that workers were reluctant to come forward with those concerns because they feared that they would lose their jobs.