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Senators Critical as Gulf Oil Spill Hearing Opens

Earthjustice is blogging live from congressional hearings starting today on the Gulf of Mexico oil spill. This is the second report.

Senate Energy and Natural Resources Chairman Jeff Bingaman (D-NM) offered brief remarks on today's hearing that were critical not only of the companies responsible for the spill but also of the regulators who failed to stop this catastrophe. He said today's hearing is the "first of many hearings" and noted that Interior Sec. Ken Salazar (who was originally scheduled to testify at the ENR committee last week) will be testifying next week before the ENR committee.

Bingaman also said that the goal of today's hearing is to gather "a thorough, factual record" of what happened before, during and after the spill. "It's not enough to chalk what happened to a view that accidents will happen," Bingaman added. "We'll likely discover there was a cascade of failures and technical and regulatory errors."

Sen. Lisa Murkowski (R-AK), the ranking minority member on the committee, recognized the tragic nature of this spill, but put her own "drill, baby, drill" spin on future oil drilling efforts, noting that "accidents remain a cold reality" of energy development. Surprisingly, she also said, "We need to steadily minimize production of oil in our energy mix," but then added that "under anyone's figures it's going to be a long time before we competely ween ourselves off our oil addiction."

The first panel is now offering opening statements, and the companies responsible for the spill will testify in the second panel. Bingaman is hoping to wrap up the hearing before lunch, so stay tuned for more updates.

Tags:  Arctic, congress, oceans, oil

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