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Inside the Beltway

Washington politics and government with a New Mexico flavor

Bingaman, Udall Set to Grill BP Officials Over Gulf Oil Spill

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Sen. Jeff Bingaman, chairman of the Senate Energy and Natural Resources Committee, will host a hearing Tuesday morning to question BP oil executives on the Gulf oil spill disaster – a discussion that could generate fireworks. Later that day, Sen. Tom Udall, D-N.M., will sit in on an Environment and Public Works Committee on the same subject.

 

A panel of independent energy experts will also testify at Bingaman’s hearing.

 

This morning, I asked Bingaman, D-N.M., if he expects BP witnesses to suffer a long, hot Tuesday under the congressional klieg lights. It’s not Bingaman’s style to engage in aggressive questioning, but that doesn’t necessarily mean other members of the Senate won’t hammer on BP execs.

 

“I’m sure the (BP witnesses) expect some of that,” Bingaman said. “The main
thrust of our hearing is going to be to try to understand the cause of this accident, and the steps that need to be taken so that similar actions don’t occur.”

 

I asked Bingaman if he, as Senate energy committee chairman, had any good insights yet on exactly what went wrong.

 

“I don’t have a good enough sense of it to be pontificating or
opining on it – that’s why we’re having the hearing,” he said.

 

Bingaman initially had scheduled a hearing this week with Interior Secretary Ken Salazar to discuss the Obama administration’s offshore drilling plans. That hearing was postponed after the Gulf oil spill.

 

A wide-ranging energy bill authored by Bingaman that would open up parts of America’s East Coast to drilling is awaiting Senate floor action. It’s too early to predict that legislation’s fate, but the BP spill can’t help it’s chance of passage this year.

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