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Begich Introducing Oil Spill Research, Funding Legislation

Bills focused on Arctic energy development, spill research & response

U.S. Sen. Mark Begich will introduce 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.

"As the nation continues to deal with the impacts of the Deepwater Horizon disaster, we also need to focus on the future energy needs of our country," Begich said. "Responsible oil and gas development has to be a part of a comprehensive energy policy, and putting in place the pieces to deal with oil spill research, planning and prevention, and the infrastructure development necessary to support it is part of moving forward on that path."

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.

Introduction of the bills was planned for Thursday, but delayed by formalities involved in the remembrance of the late West Virginia Senator Robert Byrd. The bills will be formally introduced when Congress returns from its July 4 recess.

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 a fourth bill dealing with citizen oversight of oil and gas development activities.

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