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House votes to remove oil spill liability cap

By the CNN Wire Staff
  • The measure passed by a vote of 209-193 on Friday
  • The bill would impose stiffer penalties for safety violations
  • The Senate is expected to take up its version of the legislation next week

Washington (CNN) -- The House of Representatives passed legislation Friday which would lift the current $75 million liability cap for oil spills while imposing new safety standards for offshore drilling.

The Senate has yet to act, however, so the prospects for final oil spill and energy legislation are unclear.

The House measure passed by a vote of 209 to 193.

Among other things, the bill would also impose stiffer penalties for oil rig safety violations while requiring independent certifications of key drilling equipment and demonstrations of a company's ability to respond to future rig blowouts or spills. It would also ban the practice of granting environmental waivers for drilling plans.

"We want to ensure that offshore drilling is done efficiently, while protecting both the environment and our number one natural resource -- the brave men and women who help power this great nation," Democratic Rep. Nick Rahall of West Virginia, who chairs the House Natural Resources Committee and sponsored the bill, said in a statement.

The measure was pushed by House Democratic leaders as part of the congressional reaction to the BP oil disaster in the Gulf of Mexico. Top Republicans have opposed the measure, arguing that it will further damage an already-reeling Gulf region economy.

The Senate is expected to consider its own version of energy legislation next week, before senators leave for their August recess. But even if that measure is approved, House and Senate negotiators would need to reconcile differences between the two bills.