Udall calls for drilling safety before production

DENVER — Democratic Sen. Mark Udall said today 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.



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