The U.S. House of Representatives has passed legislation that would impose new safety regulations on the offshore oil-drilling industry.
House members voted 209 to 193 in favor of the Democrat-backed legislation late Friday, siding largely along party lines.
The bill, which now goes to the Senate, would remove a $75 million limit on liability for oil spill damages and put a new tax on the industry to fund nationwide conservation projects.
Chellie Pingree, a Democratic Party congresswoman from Maine, said the legislation will have a number of positive consequences.
"In addition to cleaning up the mess, repairing the damage and cracking down on big oil companies, we also have to get serious about ending our dependence on oil and creating new sources of clean energy," she said. "If we had a clean energy economy powered by wind and solar and tidal power we probably would not be here having this discussion today."
Republican Congressman Pete Sessions of Texas argued against the legislation, saying it will stifle job growth and hurt the economy.
"The Obama moratorium on deep water oil drilling has already cost tens of thousands of jobs," said Sessions. "And this bill will eliminate even more American energy jobs, making it harder and more expensive to produce both energy on and offshore. Additionally, this legislation will only further enhance our economic troubles in the Gulf region and throughout the nation."
Jim McGovern, the Democratic Party congressman from Massachusetts disagreed.
"My friend talks about jobs. How many jobs have been lost because of this oil spill? How many fishermen are out of business, how many hotels and restaurants have lost business because of this terrible crisis? So this is a good bill, and it is a smart bill. And if you want to apologize to big oil go right ahead, but the American people are not on your side on this one," said McGovern.
The bill faces strong opposition in the Senate. The upper house of Congress is not expected to take up the issue until September.
Earlier Friday, BP's incoming CEO Bob Dudley, said it is time to scale down the vast operation to clean up the Gulf of Mexico oil spill, but he stressed his company's commitment to fully restore the environment.
Among other things, he said the company will establish a $100 million fund to support drilling-rig workers in the Gulf of Mexico who are unemployed because of the oil giant's massive spill.