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U.S. energy debate shifts to safety

June 12, 2013 at 8:24 AM   |   Comments

WASHINGTON, June 12 (UPI) -- Companies considering drilling for oil and gas in U.S. waters should assess the safety factors involved, an environmental researcher testified.

Members of the House Subcommittee on Energy and Mineral Resources heard a second day of testimony related to the proposed Offshore Energy and Jobs Act, legislation that would expand U.S. offshore energy production.

Donald Boesch, former commissioner of the federal probe into the 2010 oil spill in the Gulf of Mexico, said he was concerned about the U.S. offshore record. The United States has the highest number of fatalities per hours worked when compared to its peers, but is suspected of under-reporting the number of injuries, he said in testimony Tuesday.

American Petroleum Institute Chief Economist John Felmy told House leaders last week the offshore energy sector was "safer than ever as a result of industry's leadership and continuous investments in safety."

The Deepwater Horizon drilling platform caught fire and sank in the Gulf of Mexico in 2010. Eleven rig workers died in the incident, which caused the worst accidental offshore oil spill in the history of the industry.

Boesch, president of the University of Maryland's Center for Environmental Science, said safety concerns were compounded by a lack of general coordination and a "chronic shortage of resources."

Advocates of offshore drilling say the Obama administration is keeping potential explorers away from untapped resources. The White House says oil and natural gas production has increased every year since Obama took office in 2009.

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