Commentary: Big oil must be more tightly regulated

Now that the oil gusher in the Gulf has largely been plugged, another deluge is headed the industry's way. And it's not this weekend's tropical storm. At least 80 bills are before Congress aimed at preventing another Deepwater Debacle.

The bills would provide better oversight over drilling and ensure that before oil companies bore a mile under water, they have to prove that they know how to do it safely and are prepared to clean it up quickly if there's a spill.

If passed, the House's CLEAR Act would disqualify companies with blemished records from bidding on oil exploration leases, correctly blocking BP from new leases until it meets safety standards.

Drilling for oil under U.S. waters is a privilege, not a right. BP has to be held accountable for this disaster.

With the magnitude of this BP catastrophe plaguing four Gulf states, Congress has had no choice but to toughen and clarify the rules governing oil drilling. This will ensure that the scandal-plagued Minerals Management Service -- now called the Bureau of Ocean Energy Management Regulation and Enforcement -- did not simply get new letterhead.

Had federal regulators done their jobs, there wouldn't be efforts now to give the Fish and Wildlife Service, the Coast Guard and the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration the oversight they should have had all along.

While oil companies launched into new frontiers, venturing deeper and deeper for oil, U.S. law failed to catch up. It's been 30 years since Congress tackled off-shore drilling. It's past time.

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