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As the oil spill in the Gulf of Mexico spreads, Congress is talking about new laws. And that's got oil industry lobbyists working hard to soften measures the industry believes will be coming. NPR's Peter Overby reports.
PETER OVERBY: Democrats on Capitol Hill cast the situation in black and white. Here's New Jersey Senator Robert Menendez back on May 13th.
ROBERT MENENDEZ: Whose side are you on? Are you on the side of the taxpayers or multibillion-dollar oil companies?
OVERBY: Unidentified Man: Senator from Alaska.
LISA MURKOWSKI: Unidentified Man: Objection noted.
OVERBY: But the drive for legislation and the maneuver to block it are likely to play out many more times this summer and fall as the oil industry braces for an onslaught of legislation. Lobbyist J. Bennett Johnston, a former Democratic senator from Louisiana, is one of the industry's old hands in Washington. He speaks humbly of its clout.
BENNETT JOHNSTON: The oil industry, to read the newspaper, you would think is the most powerful lobbying group in the Congress. And the fact of the matter, it is so far down the list, you almost can't find it.
OVERBY: He argues that the shallow drillers will be unfairly hurt by the moratorium because they don't work a well for months and months the way the deep-water rigs do. Livingston says his clients use old proven technology - not so risky as the deep-water wells.
ROBERT LIVINGSTON: That is technology that's only been developed in the last 10 or 15 years, and obviously it has its drawbacks. To equate all offshore drilling with that process, it would be unfair and unwise.
OVERBY: Tyson Slocum of the progressive group Public Citizen says he's not counting the oil industry out.
TYSON SLOCUM: Big Oil's legislative agenda is still able to function, even after a devastating event like we've got going on in the Gulf of Mexico right now.
OVERBY: Peter Overby, NPR News, Washington.
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