U.S. Rep. Bob Latta (R., Bowling Green) on Monday called for more investigation to get to the bottom of the causes of the BP oil spill in the Gulf of Mexico, after viewing the devastation firsthand last week.
Mr. Latta was one of a group of seven Republicans and one Democrat from the House Energy and Commerce Committee who journeyed to New Orleans on Thursday and Friday.
He said he was the first congressman from Ohio to visit the area affected by the oil spill.
In a phone conference call with reporters yesterday, Mr. Latta said he has not changed his mind about the necessity of domestic oil production, even after the April 20 explosion of BP's Deepwater Horizon oil rig that shattered confidence in the safety of oil drilling in the Gulf.
"All the proper safeguards have got to be enforced. Everyone has got to be doing what they're supposed to be doing," Mr. Latta said.
He was critical of BP's drilling operations leading up to the disaster and of what he said was a slow response by the Obama Administration when the spill began.
He said it was clear the administration underestimated the amount of oil that was spewing from the damaged oil well during the first week of the disaster.
He said he looks forward to more Congressional hearings with lower-level BP officials as well as with the former U.S. Minerals Management Service that regulated oil drilling.
The agency is now the Bureau of Ocean Energy Management, Regulation, and Enforcement.
He said President Obama's six- month moratorium on drilling undermines America's access to domestically produced oil and sends the drilling rigs to other parts of the world.
"I don't think we should do any knee-jerk reactions right now because we could put ourselves in tremendous jeopardy in this country," he said.
"The Number One thing is to find out what happened, how did it happen, why did it happen; then we have to bring all those parties accountable before us."
He said he still supports drilling in the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge, an area he toured two years ago on another congressional trip.
He said he continues to support an "all of the above" policy that supports alternative energy sources toward the goal of reducing dependence on foreign sources.
The group toured Grand Isle, La., and the chain of barrier islands south of Louisiana that stand between the open gulf and the wetlands.
They had a helicopter and boat tour of the Gulf and met with state and local elected officials.
"They've been doing their best to put booms up between the smaller islands to keep oil from getting through to the north, but at the same time have had a lot of their ideas turned down by a lot of the governmental agencies," Mr. Latta said.
He said BP should pay the entire cost of the disaster and declined to use the term "slush fund" that some other Republican politicians have applied to the $20 billion fund that BP agreed in consultation with the Obama Administration to establish to reimburse victims.
Mr. Latta said that he did not know the trip's cost to taxpayers.
U.S. Rep. Marcy Kaptur (D., Toledo) was not available to comment on the trip.
Her spokesman, Steve Fought, said Miss Kaptur shares Mr. Latta's conviction that BP should pay its fair share.
He said she agrees on the need for more energy but said her focus is on alternative energy, for which northwest Ohio is developing a brand.
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