This post contributed by Madeline McCurry-Schmidt, Frontiers in Ecology and the Environment intern at the Ecological Society of America.
Last month, Obama surprised conservationists when he added plans to expand off-shore drilling to his energy policy in an effort to sway votes in Congress. Then—just as both sides rose to debate the issue—the Deepwater Horizon oil rig exploded.
This morning, amid reports of shifting ocean currents and dying sea turtles, several democratic senators joined a Capitol Hill press conference organized by the Sierra Club. The senators gave their views about what the oil spill means to climate change and energy policy.
Senator Robert Menendez (D-NJ) said the disaster in the Gulf should remove off-shore drilling from the energy debate. “Those who have been advocates of drilling have to look at the reality,” said Menendez. He said that plans for expanding nuclear energy and “cleaner” energy from coal should be enough for Republicans.
Menendez was joined by Senators Bill Nelson (D-FL) and Frank Lautenberg (D-NJ). Nelson said that he will filibuster any energy bill that allows expanded off-shore drilling. Lautenberg supports legislation to raise liability costs for oil companies. He said previous liability costs were “less than a drop in the bucket” for oil companies. “We’re going to raise the cost until it gets your attention.”
All three senators vowed to hold BP—the company leasing the oil rig—responsible for the costs of the spill. Lautenberg challenged BP’s assertion that it was making the best efforts to aid in the clean-up. “Hell no,” he said. “They’re not finished until they’ve paid the last check and the last drop of oil is out of there.”