CNN Anchor 'Shocked' Congress Working to Open Up Offshore Drilling Without Passing New Safety Laws

They may not be officially celebrating "Green Week," but CNN was fully in the spirit of the week Wednesday morning. Anchor Carol Costello expressed her dismay that Congress has not acted in the last year to prevent another disaster like the BP oil spill, and seemed to want more safety regulations and laws for oil companies to follow in a disaster.

"Congress doesn't seem to be in charge," Costello lamented, on the one-year anniversary of the Deepwater Horizon disaster that began the massive oil spill into the Gulf of Mexico.

When CNN correspondent Brianna Keilar reported that House committees have been moving legislation to speed up drilling permits and open up new offshore drilling areas, Costello was troubled.
 

"I'm just so shocked by that," she gasped. "Is there any chance that Congress will pass legislation on safety anytime soon?" She mentioned "safety laws," "increased penalties for violations," and "law on how oil companies must respond to such a disaster" as examples of what Congress could be enacting into law.

Keilar, on Capitol Hill, pressed Rep. Ed Markey (D-Mass.) for being too soft on the Obama administration after he warned them to show caution in dealing with the GOP on oil drilling regulation. In February, President Obama allowed deep water drilling again – after his administration was ruled by a federal judge in Louisiana as acting in contempt by continuing its moratorium on deep-water drilling after the same judge struck it down earlier.

"It's important for the Obama administration to go only so far and not be pushed into a situation where they once again are invoking the law of unintended consequences," Markey stated. Keilar responded, "To play devil's advocate, that's pretty soft language for someone who looked at BP executives and demanded they apologize for lying. I mean, isn't that being soft on the administration?"

A transcript of the segment, which aired on April 20 at 10:29 a.m. EDT, is as follows:

CAROL COSTELLO: One year to the day after the fatal explosion that set off the BP oil spill. Many people who depend on the Gulf for a living say they are still waiting for compensation. The president of Plaquemines Parish told CNN he's still waiting for some leadership.

(...)

COSTELLO: Congress doesn't seem to be in charge. What have lawmakers done over the past year to make sure there isn't a sequel to the BP oil disaster? Nothing. No new safety laws. No increased penalties for violations, and no laws on how oil companies must respond to such a disaster. The Department of Interior and the oil industry have taken on all the responsibility.

CNN's Brianna Keilar went to Capitol Hill and asked why.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

(...)

BRIANNA KEILAR (voice-over): Now one year later, what about making sure this never happens again?

(on camera): What has Congress done?

MARKEY: Congress has not passed any legislation yet to respond to the lessons which we have learned from that spill.

KEILAR (voice-over): Markey blames Republican senators who opposed a bill the House passed last Congress.

(on camera): It's not just Republicans, it's also Democrats who are running counter to what you say needs to be done.

MARKEY: Well, again, we had a majority of the votes in the Senate, but you need more than 51 in the Senate. You need 60 votes.

KEILAR: But you didn't even have all Democratic votes.

MARKEY: No, we didn't have all Democrats. But it's a very small minority of Democrats plus just about every Republican just to get the mix correct.

KEILAR (voice-over): And Markey lost another battle in February when the Obama administration once again allowed deep water drilling with the support of Republicans and some Gulf state Democrats who argued that drilling means jobs.

(on camera): What do you say to the president?

MARKEY: It's important for the Obama administration to go only so far and not to be pushed into a situation where they once again are invoking the law of unintended consequences.

KEILAR: To play devil's advocate, that's pretty soft language for someone who looked at BP executives and demanded they apologize for lying. I mean, isn't that being soft on the administration?

MARKEY: No. I am saying that they have to be very careful.

(END VIDEOTAPE)

KEILAR: Now in the now Republican-controlled House, just last week, committees moved bills to expedite drilling permits and open new offshore areas to drilling. Republicans say they are striking a balance between safety and the demand for oil. But Carol, Ed Markey says they're acting as if the spill never even happened.

COSTELLO: I'm just so shocked by that. Is there any chance that Congress will pass legislation on safety anytime soon?

KEILAR: Well, in the way that, say, Ed Markey wants to see it, he does have a bill right now that would incorporate some of the oil spill commission's recommendations. But it seems really unlikely that it will pass. And certainly even in the last Congress, he had a hard time getting things through the Senate. As you know right now, the big battles are over the economy, they're over jobs. We're going to see a fight over raising the debt ceiling, and this doesn't appear to be - certainly as much of a priority for those other things, Carol.

COSTELLO: If my memory is serving me, didn't Ed Markey actually cry over this in Congress?

KEILAR: You know, I don't -- I remember Charlie Melancon who is from Louisiana, he certainly did cry. I don't know if that was Ed Markey.

COSTELLO: You're right, you're right. I was just wondering. I mean, it was such an emotional issue for so many lawmakers. So, I guess, after listening to your story, it's like, you're kidding. Nothing has been passed?

KEILAR: And, you know, I remember going down to Louisiana in October. It's sort of striking this balance for people in that area. This is their economy. This is their livelihood. This is also their coastline. And so when you talk to average Americans who this really affects them, not just in their livelihood, but they're trying to strike a balance, as well. And they actually had some issues with how Democrats approached the drilling moratorium. But they also do want to see some safety, so they're kind of demanding both things, Carol.

 

Matt Hadro
Matt Hadro
Matt Hadro was a News Analyst for the Media Research Center's News Analysis Division from 2010 through early 2014