Not even 24 hours after Sen. Majority Leader Harry Reid introduced an already stripped-down oil spill/energy bill yesterday, it has already encountered a string of obstacles. Led by Minority Leader Mitch McConnell, Senate Republicans attacked the bill's removal of a liability cap for companies following spills at their offshore facilities. The Republicans want to give regulators the power to determine caps in individual cases; they worry that the prospect of unlimited damage claims could put smaller drilling companies out of business. Democratic Sens. Mary Landrieu and Mark Begich are also opposed to removing the cap, which could doom Harry Reid's hopes to gain 60 votes to prevent a filibuster.
Republicans also want to strike President Obama's six-month moratorium on deepwater drilling and have raised a fuss about last-minute language inserted into the bill that would impose new transparency requirements on a controversial method of extracting natural gas. Hydraulic fracturing, known in the environmental community as "fracking," involves injecting a mixture of sand, water, and chemicals underground in order to crack the rock and release gas. Environmentalists worry that fracking contaminates nearby water supplies and have lobbied Congress to regulate the bill under the Safe Drinking Water Act. Reid's oil bill does not go this far, but it does require companies who rely on fracking to disclose the chemicals they are using.