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June 18, 2010 at 6:10 PM

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Reichert has questions, not answers, on Gulf oil spill

Posted by Katherine Long

As oil continues to gush out of the failed BP well in the Gulf of Mexico, we wondered how the two major candidates for the 8th Congressional District stood on cleanup issues and the safety of deepwater drilling.

We asked Rep. Dave Reichert and Democratic challenger Suzan DelBene whether they supported the move to make BP set up an escrow account, whether they approve of the six-month moratorium on offshore drilling, whether they want to see a permanent ban on offshore drilling on the West Coast and if they think the liability cap for oil producers should be raised.

Reichert, answering by e-mail through campaign spokesman Jeff Harvey, did not have a response to any of the questions.

"His feelings are we are still in the middle of the crisis, and have yet to determine or fully understand how this disaster occurred, how to stop it, how to fix the damage it has already caused, or how to prevent another disaster from happening in the future," Harvey wrote.

"Given that, before he answers a series of yes or no questions, he has some questions of his own that need to be answered."

Harvey said those questions include: What caused the leak in the first place? Why was there not an effective emergency response in place? What would other companies do if it was their rig that broke? How will this impact our jobs and economy?

DelBene, who has been endorsed by the State Democratic Party and several party leaders, answered the questions in a telephone interview Thursday afternoon.

She said she supports President Obama's decision to put a six-month moratorium on deepwater offshore drilling and the creation of a $20 billion BP escrow fund. "I think BP needs to be held accountable," she said, calling the escrow fund a "good first step."

She's also in favor of a permanent ban on offshore drilling on the outer continental shelf of Washington, Oregon and California, a proposal put forth by a six Democratic West Coast senators, including Washington Sens. Patty Murray and Maria Cantwell. (There are no plans to open the West coast to drilling, so the move is largely symbolic.)

And she would like the liability cap for offshore drillers to be raised from the current amount of $75 million, although she didn't have a specific number for what it should be. The cap limits economic damages from an oil spill. "Clearly, $75 million is not enough to address a major spill," she said.

DelBene called the spill "a wakeup call" for the country to invest in clean energy, echoing Obama's call Tuesday for clean energy. DelBene said an emphasis on developing new energy sources would be good for national security, and would create local jobs.

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