WASHINGTON Ã¢â‚¬â€ A Senate hearing on the Gulf of Mexico oil spill was disrupted Wednesday as a protester poured an oily-looking liquid on herself before being arrested.
“This is what it feels like to have oil dumped on you,” the woman, identified as Diane Wilson, said in comments addressed to Senator Lisa Murkowski of Alaska.
Wilson issued a statement issued later saying she is a fourth generation shrimper from the Gulf and that her protest was directed against Murkowski for supporting the oil industry and opposing measures such as lifting the liability cap on oil firms in offshore spills.
Wilson opened a jar and poured a dark, oily-looking substance on her head at the hearing of the Senate Energy and Natural Resources Committee, before being taken away by Capitol police. Committee staff said later the jar contained syrup.
“With this BP disaster, I am seeing the destruction of my community and I am outraged,” Wilson said in her statement.
“I am also seeing elected representatives like Senator Lisa Murkowski blocking BP from being legally responsible to pay for this catastrophe.”
At the hearing, US Interior Secretary Ken Salazar told lawmakers offshore drilling in the Gulf of Mexico will continue “in a safe way” in the wake of the massive Deepwater Horizon accident.
Salazar told the committee that a range of new regulations implemented following the accident at the BP-operated well would protect against new spills.
“Offshore drilling will continue… it has to be done in a safe way,” he told the panel.
Salazar, who heads the agency that oversees oil leasing and management of federal lands, highlighted tougher safety rules imposed this week for offshore drilling and the reorganization of the Minerals Management Service, the division which has been criticized for being too cozy with the oil industry.
But he said the rules would not halt all offshore drilling despite the six-month moratorium on new deepwater wells ordered by President Barack Obama last month.
“The importance of the jobs is very much on the mind of the president and on my mind as well,” Salazar said.
He told Senator Mary Landrieu of Louisiana that the administration would ask BP to pay salaries of oil sector workers whose jobs have been suspended by the drilling ban.
According to committee figures, the Gulf of Mexico has some 3,600 wells or drilling operations and 700 of them are at depths of around 1,500 meters (5,000 feet) like the Deepwater Horizon.
Salazar confirmed that BP was capturing around 15,000 barrels a day from a new device placed on the wellhead, but was unable to estimate how much was still leaking.
“It is important for us to have the right number. We’ll get that right number,” he said.
“Our goal is get zero pollution from this well. Nothing is being spared to bring this problem under control.”