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Begich Formally Introduces Oil Spill Research, Funding Legislation

Bills focused on Arctic energy development, spill research & response

U.S. Sen. Mark Begich today introduced two more pieces of legislation designed to promote responsible energy development in the Arctic by ensuring the federal government has thoroughly planned and prepared for potential oil spills in the region. Begich's bills are part of a larger comprehensive package of oil spill prevention and response legislation.

Introduction of the bills was planned for July 1, but was delayed by formalities surrounding the remembrance of the late West Virginia Senator Robert Byrd.

"I will continue my push for a comprehensive energy plan for our country, which should include plans for responsible development of Alaska's oil and gas resources," Begich said. "We know there must be several pieces to the policy and my bills are focused on how to move forward with oil spill research, planning and prevention, and the infrastructure development necessary to support those efforts."

The Responsible Arctic Energy Development Act of 2010 requires the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) and the U.S. Coast Guard to plan and prepare for oil spills in the Arctic, including techniques to respond to spills in ice conditions, research on the effects of oil on Arctic ecosystems, and baseline studies of Arctic tides, currents and ecology. The bill also directs the agencies to improve infrastructure related to the safety of navigation, research, and search and rescue operations.

The measure expands a bill Begich introduced last summer (S.1564) to enhance the scientific understanding of the Arctic to ensure safe and responsible development of resources there.

The Resources for Oil Spill Research and Prevention Act of 2010 provides funding for oil spill research and planning by boosting the Oil Spill Liability Trust Fund (OSLTF) by 3 cents a barrel for domestic oil and 7 cents a barrel for imported oil. This would raise approximately $300 million annually to be used by federal, state and local governments and other institutions for oil spill, research, planning and prevention.

"We want to give NOAA, the Coast Guard and state and local governments consistent funding so they can develop and maintain the strong scientific and operational capacity necessary to prevent and quickly respond to oil spills," Begich said.

Last month, Begich introduced The Guaranteed Oil Spill Compensation Act of 2010, a bill requiring BP, or any other party responsible for an oil spill, to deposit into an escrow account held by the U.S. government enough money to compensate those affected by a spill. If a spill occurred, and a company didn't deposit into the escrow account, future development of federal oil and gas leases would be prohibited for that company.

Sen. Begich plans on introducing other legislation dealing with citizen oversight of oil and gas development activities and liability issues surrounding oil spills.

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