Alaska senator urges restraint on spill reaction

Senate Energy and Natural Committee Resources ranking member Lisa Murkowski, R-Alaska, on Friday urged Congress not to overreact legislatively to the Gulf of Mexico oil spill.

Speaking at a conference sponsored by the University of Virginia's Center for Oceans Law and Policy, Murkowski said investigations into the cause of the spill should "guide us in our decision-making" when it comes time to make new regulations, but too much was still unknown.

Murkowski and other Republicans have blocked Senate Democratic attempts to raise to $10 billion the $75 million cap on how much a company is liable for economic damages resulting from a spill.

She hoped that exploratory drilling would still begin this summer off the coast of her home state of Alaska. "[Alaska needs] to be given the chance to prove that we can explore safely," she said, noting that the spill did not change U.S. demand for oil.

Meanwhile, 78 House Democrats -- led by Reps. Jay Inslee of Washington and Lois Capps of California -- wrote to President Obama on Thursday to ask for a delay in the exploratory Arctic Ocean drilling until the Gulf spill has been investigated and until the administration "has subsequently put into place improved and rigorous prevention technology requirements," according to their letter.

Obama halted drilling permits from being issued until Interior Secretary Ken Salazar gives him a set of safety recommendations, which are expected this month.

Administration officials have not been immune to criticism regarding their actions before and after the spill, including not moving away from an initial joint BP-government estimate that roughly 5,000 barrels of oil has been leaking from the sunken rig daily.

BP conceded on Thursday that more oil than the company had estimated has been leaking every day. The company is collecting 5,000 barrels of oil a day from a mile-long tube the company inserted over the weekend, but oil continues to leak from the ruptured well.

Some scientists have estimated that the per-day spill volume has exceeded 70,000 barrels.

But in a statement Friday, BP said some third-party estimates of flow are inaccurate.

Obama administration officials, including Salazar and National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration Administrator Jane Lubchenco, have continued to say the most up-to-date estimate remains 5,000 barrels per day. A government-created technical team is working on a more precise estimate and is required to produce a report by Saturday.

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