MPR's Morning Edition interviewed Democratic U.S. Rep. Jim Oberstar and Republican U.S. Rep. Michele Bachmann on Wednesday for their reaction to President Barack Obama's speech on the Gulf Coast oil spill. Below are excerpts from those interviews.
Rep. Jim Oberstar of Minnesota's 8th Congressional District
On the oil spill and government oversight:
"The problem is that the Bush administration was not only hands off but gave free reign to the oil companies. In May 2008, the Minerals Management Service of the Bush administration issued an exemption from a blow out scenario requirement for outer continental shelf actions in the Gulf, for the lease sale to BP. Accordingly, the exploration plan did not have an analysis or response plan for blow out of the well head. The message was: Keep government out, we are too big to fail, we know what we're doing, leave us alone. And that was the whole spirit of the Bush Administration in deep water drilling."
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On what needs to happen to prevent similar disasters:
"There was very little attention paid in all of the history. I've been involved in oil pollution legislation since ... the '70s. All of the attention was on spills from vessels. Drilling was at very shallow depths, 300-600 feet. Movement to deep water, 5,000-foot drilling, occurred much more recently, and with great advances in technology. And the Minerals Management Service was not prepared for this, nor was the coast guard, and they hey had to rely on the industry to be its own watchdog. That is a terrible mistake. ... We need a complete overhaul of the Minerals Management Service, restructuring of their permitting process, rigorous oversight of safety of deep water drilling operations, and skills and competency for both the Coast Guard and the Minerals Management Service."
On a compensation fund for those hurt by the Gulf oil spill:
"I think we make some adjustments in the Oil Pollution Liability Act to require the responsible party to deposit funds, revenues of some predetermined amount ... because they are totally responsible for every penny. ... So establish a fund, put it under the control of an independent entity like a referee in bankruptcy who knows how to manage claims, and then send persons who have been injured who have a claim to that referee to settle those claims without having to appeal to the responsible party, in this case BP, or a government agency."
Rep. Michele Bachmann of Minnesota's 6th Congressional District
On President Barack Obama's speech:
"The speech appeared to be fairly weak. ... I think part of that is because the president's remarks have not focused on the solution: how are we actually going to stop the leak? Last night, not a lot was said about that. ... There will be a damage fund set up, but I think what people really want to see is the oil stop. ... It just seems to me that the president's priorities are wrong right now, because he continues to focus on blaming and on extorting money out of a company rather than letting the courts deal with making victims whole, which they should, and actually stemming the leak in the gulf."
On the compensation fund Obama wants to set up:
"It looks like again the president is taking this opportunity to have the federal government go in with a federal government response, take money out of private industries for yet-to-be-determined ideas that the federal government will come out with. It's not just me saying it, there's a number of people here in Washington saying that this is the federal government forcing a financial redistribution. ... It sounds like the federal government essentially wants to nationalize BP and this could be pushing this company into bankruptcy."
On regulation of off-shore drilling:
"It isn't that there shouldn't be regulation, there certainly should. Sometimes the regulatory burden in government can be too onerous. ... There needs to be a healthy balance between the government's obvious need to have oversight and regulation, and here clearly there were problems. Whether BP was reckless, we're not sure what happened on BP's side or whether there was a failure on the government's side through the Minerals Management Service to not have oversight of existing rules and regulation."