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Boise a Player in BP Debate This Week

July 28, 2010

BOISE, Idaho - Boise is an unlikely hot spot in the BP oil spill controversy this week. Idaho's capital was randomly selected as host city for a public meeting of a federal panel that will decide how the more than 150 civil cases filed so far will be handled.

It is likely cases will be consolidated, and a judge to handle those proceedings must be identified. Cases have been filed related to the deaths, personal injuries, economic losses and environmental damage associated with the oil rig explosion and leak.

At the same time, Congress is also considering those interests, with a stack of 80 bills related to oil industry reform. Pew Environment Group manager Eleanor Huffines says much of the legislation is bipartisan, and some will be of assistance to those who have filed cases.

"People are taking a hard look at our laws that haven't been changed for over 32 years and saying, 'What can we do differently, and what can we do better, to take care of the coastal communities, the people and the environment?'"

She says 10 bills are already out of committee and ready for votes before the August recess. Several focus on research that would put oil companies and the nation in a better position to prevent future accidents, and to respond more efficiently when there are spills, she adds.

"A lot of the technology for drilling has advanced, but the technology for oil spill response has not advanced. Our laws have not advanced, our oversight."

The Judicial Panel on Multidistrict Litigation meets at the Federal Courthouse, Boise. A list of most of the legislation can be found at http://tiny.cc/ea30r.

Deb Courson, Public News Service - ID