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Commission outlines steps to prevent oil spills

The Obama administration, Congress and the oil industry must do more to prevent the kind of spill that befouled the Gulf of Mexico last year, a special presidential commission says.

"It is our government's responsibility that exploration and extraction occur in ways that are beneficial to the country," commission chairman Bob Graham said in a report from USA Today. "Drilling offshore is a privilege to be earned, not a right to be exercised by private corporations."

The seven-member panel unanimously endorsed 15 recommendations in the wake of the largest offshore oil spill in U.S. history. Many of the proposals will require action by Congress, but some could be accomplished through rule-making, primarily at the Interior Department, the commissioners said.

The panel calls for increasing budgets and training for the federal agency that regulates offshore drilling; boosting the liability cap for damages when companies drill offshore; dedicating 80 percent of fines and penalties from the BP spill to restoration of the Gulf; and lending more weight to scientific opinions by other federal scientists in decisions about drilling.

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