Among the divergent viewpoints of U.S. Rep. Judy Biggert and Scott Harper about offshore drilling is the issue of cleanup funding.
The incumbent Hinsdale Republican is squaring off against the Lockport Democrat for the second time in as many years for the District 13 seat in a closely watched and heavily funded race.
Harper supports President Obama's moratorium on offshore drilling; Biggert does not.
With a much-maligned liability cap set at $75 million to cover disasters and spills, Biggert said she would support increasing that amount. She also suggested any additional funds needed in case of future disasters could be covered by existing dollars set aside in a special fund.
"Damages exceeding (the current) threshold can be paid out of the Oil Spill Liability Trust Fund," she said, "a fund financed through per-barrel fees on domestic and imported crude oil."
Critics of the liability cap complain the amount is too low to cover the majority of costs associated with major disasters. The U.S. House recently voted to remove the liability cap, but the measure is still awaiting a vote in the Senate. BP agreed to set up a $20 billion cleanup fund following the company's recent offshore drilling catastrophe.
Harper said he supports requiring oil companies performing offshore drilling operations to place funds in escrow to cover disaster cleanups that could be accessed immediately instead of negotiated.
"A disaster plan should be in place," he said. "I think we need to focus on safety and have a way to reduce these incidents. Also, some kind of fund and cleanup provision should be in place."
The issue of offshore drilling safety is going to be a major topic for many congressional races heading into the Nov. 2 election following the explosion of a BP oil rig in April that killed 11 people and led to months of oil leaking from a ruptured pipe into the Gulf of Mexico. The rupture was capped several months later, but another offshore rig exploded weeks later. That explosion did not result in any fatalities or oil leaking.
Harper said he supports the moratorium on offshore oil drilling that President Obama implemented in the wake of the first explosion.
"Every single well and rig needs to be thoroughly inspected before offshore production resumes," Harper said. "It's another issue that's gotten worse during her six terms in office."
But Biggert opposes the moratorium, saying it has cost Americans jobs. While visiting the Gulf Coast, Biggert said she was told at least three rigs had moved to Brazil to work there.
"A moratorium will do nothing but destroy U.S. jobs and make the U.S. even more dependent on foreign oil," she said. "Until we can get other major energy resources to displace petroleum, we need to continue responsible exploration and development of oil and natural gas drilling."
Biggert said she has worked on several legislative initiatives to make drilling safer and reform cleanup response.
"I inserted language into the Oil Pollution Research and Development Program Reauthorizing Act of 2010 that ensures research efforts for cleanup technologies are fully transparent and that would expedite the deployment of scientific solutions for immediate mitigation and containment," she said.
Harper said Biggert has been a reactionary legislator. He would pursue energy independence initiatives that bring jobs to the area and the state, keeping them in the U.S.
"We can compete in getting these new jobs," he said. "We've got to wake up and look at our future and out-compete these other countries. Wind, solar, geothermal, nuclear, these combined are going to produce millions of jobs."