Senate postpones action on oil spill bill

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WASHINGTON -- Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid today abandoned plans to take up a bill to address the BP oil spill and energy policy, pushing the attempt to get 60 votes to September.

The legislation -- proposed last week in place of a larger climate bill -- would remove the cap on oil company liability in case of a spill, a provision that would apply retroactively to BP. It also would have required oil companies to pay 49 cents a barrel into a liability fund and draft more thorough spill response plans.

Republicans, drilling-state Democrats -- including Mark Begich of Alaska and Mary Landrieu of Louisiana -- and the oil industry objected, saying that the bill would prevent all but the biggest operators from drilling offshore, thus killing jobs.

Mr. Reid announced this afternoon that he couldn't find 60 votes to overcome a GOP filibuster, and he would try again next month after the August recess.

"Several key Republicans have said they need more time to consider our bill and its merits," Mr. Reid said. "We're giving them that chance. I hope it will lead to a reasonable discussion and their support."

The bill includes some modest energy provisions, including $5 billion for the Home Star home weatherization program, $3.8 billion in tax credits for vehicles that run on natural gas and a $400 million pilot program to create plug-in electric car infrastructure in select communities.

Language from Sen. Bob Casey, D-Pa., requiring that natural gas companies disclose all of the chemicals used in the hydraulic fracturing process was also included in the legislation.

The House of Representatives passed a similar bill last week.

Daniel Malloy: or 202-445-9980. Follow him on Twitter at PG_in_DC.


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