WASHINGTON, Oct. 14 (UPI) -- Penalties charged to oil companies working in the United States are minor compared with what their budgets can handle, a U.S. official said in Washington.
Officials testified before the House Committee on Natural Resources on the investigation into last year's oil spill in the Gulf of Mexico.
U.S. Rep. Ed Markey, D-Mass., the ranking Democrat on the House energy committee, testified that penalties for oil spills should be higher so energy companies get the message.
He testified that, at the most, British energy company BP is facing a $21 million penalty for its role in the gulf disaster last year. BP, meanwhile, is on pace to make around $25 billion this year, he said.
"That fine obviously does not even begin to approach the amount needed to be a deterrent against a repeat of this tragedy," he said. "That fine is nothing more than a slap on the wrist."
Markey added that his Republican counterparts were dragging their feet on getting new legislation passed in the wake of the gulf disaster. Furthermore, he complained, he wasn't notified of several key aspects of the latest hearing until just days before it convened.
U.S. Rep. Doc Hastings, R-Wash., chairman of the committee, complained the U.S. economy would suffer unless energy companies were given more leeway in the gulf, however.
The national economy and national security are at stake, he said. "We must move forward with offshore energy production in a safe, timely and efficient manner."