Udall wants change in agency that studies drilling | AspenTimes.com

Udall wants change in agency that studies drilling

Kristen Wyatt
The Associated Press
Aspen, CO Colorado
U.S. Sen. Mark Udall holds a news conference at a gas station that sells ethanol fuel in Denver on Monday, June 14, 2010 to discuss a bill he will introduce to ensure research and development is done on safety and spill prevention for oil and gas wells both on shore and offshore. (AP Photo/Ed Andrieski)

DENVER – Democratic Sen. Mark Udall said Monday that he wants more research on safety in oil and gas drilling – and that he isn’t ruling out the possibility of a longer moratorium on deepwater drilling until safer practices are in place.

Udall said he’ll propose a bill this week to shift the focus of a Department of Energy program that currently researches ultra-deepwater drilling. He added that he wouldn’t rule out extending a six-month moratorium on deepwater drilling until the procedure for extracting oil can be made safer.

“I understand the concerns of those who have capital invested and jobs on the line,” Udall said. “But the effects of the spill are so enormous that I can’t imagine that anybody in a responsible position wouldn’t want to understand what happened and put the appropriate safety measures in place before we go forward again.”

He said ultra-deepwater drilling is like “trying to operate in outer space” and that federal researchers have erred in not working harder on safety research.

“Our research and development at the federal level has been a lot more focused on production and increasing production than it has been on preventing spills and responding in the aftermath,” Udall said.

The program that Udall’s bill would change was set up in 2005 “to benefit consumers by developing technologies to increase America’s domestic oil and gas production.” It spends about $50 million a year to study how to increase domestic oil production.

The money comes from royalty payments from companies that drill on federal lands.

Udall said he wants to “reformat” that program to spend more time studying safety, but he didn’t give details Monday.

Colorado’s other senator, Democrat Michael Bennet, called Udall’s plan “a good step.”

Last week, Louisiana officials asked the administration to lift the moratorium, saying that drilling is largely safe and that the deepwater moratorium is costing jobs.

The U.S. Senate is likely to take up sweeping energy legislation this summer. Udall repeated his argument that carbon emissions must be taxed in order to reduce greenhouse gas.

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