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BP Oil Spill spurs action


Oil Spill May Spur Support for U.S. Climate Bill, Browner Says

By Kim Chipman

May 7 (Bloomberg) -- The BP Plc oil spill in the Gulf of Mexico may help galvanize support for climate-change legislation to overhaul U.S. energy policy, White House adviser Carol Browner said.

"This accident, this tragedy, is actually heightening people's interest in energy in this country and in wanting a different energy plan," Browner, President Barack Obama's adviser on energy and climate change, said in an interview on Bloomberg Television's "Political Capital With Al Hunt" airing this weekend.

Senate efforts to pass legislation promoting clean energy and capping greenhouse-gas emissions stalled last month when South Carolina Senator Lindsey Graham, the only Republican backing the proposal, withdrew his support to protest Democrats' indications they would take up immigration first. The climate measure is set to be released as early as next week without Graham, and Browner said she's hopeful he will sign on to it.
"Senator Graham remains very committed to a different energy future," Browner said.

The April 20 explosion that sank an oil rig may have been the "death knell" for Obama's proposal to expand offshore drilling, Mike Morris, chief executive officer of American Electric Power Co., said in an interview on May 4. The oil leak also may have doomed the compromise climate measure that was to include the drilling plan, he said.
Domestic oil production must be part of a new-energy economy, Browner said.
'Safest Conditions'

"What we want to do is make sure that we are producing domestic oil to the best of our ability under the safest conditions," said Browner, who served as head of the Environmental Protection Agency under former President Bill Clinton.

Browner said she gives climate-change legislation a better than 50 percent chance of passing Congress this year.
"We are going to continue to work to move legislation," Browner said when asked whether Obama will set a deadline for action and tell Congress he wants the issue tackled before immigration. "Obviously we need to work with the Senate to determine what the right schedule is."

The Obama administration is being "very aggressive" in pushing BP to combat and clean up the 5,000-barrel-a-day spill triggered by the explosion of the Deepwater Horizon rig leased by the London-based company.
"We are pushing them to make sure they are doing everything, deploying every resource, looking at every potential solution," and the company is responding, Browner said.
Cap on Damages

Browner said the administration favors a move in Congress to raise a $75 million cap on economic damages from the spill that BP would face under federal law. More study is needed before determining whether the figure should be $10 billion, as proposed by lawmakers, she said.

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