Udall to push rig safety in wake of spill

The federal government should devote more resources to drilling rig safety on water and on the shore, U.S. Sen. Mark Udall, D-Colo., said Wednesday.

Oil companies still are using the same basic technology that was employed to contain the Exxon Valdez spill in Alaska in 1989, “when cell phones were the size of shoe boxes,” Udall said in a conference call with Colorado reporters.

He spoke as the continuing spill from the British Petroleum well 5,000 feet beneath the surface of the Gulf of Mexico transfixes the world.

He said he will introduce legislation that will require the federal government to devote more resources to safety in on-shore and off-shore drilling.

In Colorado alone, 900 spills have been reported to officials during the past 17 months, Udall said.

Industry has had too much control over research and development at the Department of Energy aimed at increased production. Too few resources have been devoted to safety and accident prevention, Udall said.

Residents and energy producers both need data and ideas for additional safety and environmental protections, he said.

In other matters, Udall said he is sponsoring a measure that would call for the release of high-mountain water into the Grand Valley for endangered fish. It could clear up lingering questions about how best to make sure the fish stay wet in the summertime, he said.

The measure would devote 10,000 acre-feet of water stored in Ruedi Reservoir to the endangered fish of the Colorado River.

For a decade now, Ruedi Reservoir water has been sent down the Fryingpan and Roaring Fork rivers and into the Colorado River to boost water levels for the endangered fish in the Grand Valley.

The water would come from old or unused agricultural rights and more than half of it from water for which the Bureau of Reclamation has no buyer.

The arrangement involves Western Slope and Front Range cooperation, he said.

The water would be released at appropriate times for the humpback and bonytail chubs, razorback sucker and Colorado pikeminnow, Udall said.

Udall also will carry legislation giving the Bureau of Reclamation authority to manage the Leadville drainage tunnel. The bureau and the Environmental Protection Agency have tussled in recent years about which is in charge of the tunnel.


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