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ME State Reps: "Dear Lame Duck Congress..."

November 12, 2010

AUGUSTA, Maine - What is known as the "lame duck" Congress heads back to Washington, D.C., on Monday, which means some members will be finishing the last two months of their terms and will not be returning next year. Many see this time as the least productive for outgoing legislators, and that's why several Maine state representatives have signed on to a letter urging Sens. Snowe and Collins to take some action sooner, rather than later, on an offshore energy reform bill.

Maine House Majority Whip Seth Berry (D-HD67) is one of 20 signers who cites the Deepwater Horizon Spill as a reason to act now.

"Very concerned about the potential for Maine's coastline to be damaged in oil spills. You know there is a great deal of oil traffic in and out of Maine's ports."

One issue that is expected to come up for debate next month is the cap on the amount of money that the energy companies would have to pay as the result of an oil spill. Right now, the amount of liability is set at $75 million, says Berry.

"If damage is done to the coastline, the fisheries, the tourist economy of any state, then it seems to us that those responsible for the damage should pay, and not the taxpayer."

In an estimate released by Pew Environment Group, the BP oil spill is projected to have caused a loss of about $22 billion in tourism dollars, and Berry says that although Maine escaped damage this time, he would like to see protections in place going forward.

The letter stresses the importance of holding the polluters liable, as opposed to the taxpayers. Other points being highlighted: protections for coastal resources, including fisheries, and a greater role for the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) regarding their response plans to environmental emergencies.

The bill, "The Clean Energy Jobs and Oil Accountability Act," is S.3663.

Monique Coppola, Public News Service - ME