Washington, D.C. — Today, U.S. Representative Rick Larsen (WA-02), a member of the House Committee on Transportation and Infrastructure, delivered the following statement, urging a ban on offshore drilling along the Pacific Coast, at the House Transportation and Infrastructure Committee Hearing: “Deepwater Horizon: Oil Spill Prevention and Response Measures and Natural Resource Impacts.”
The House Committee on Transportation and Infrastructure has jurisdiction over our nation’s oil spill response and prevention laws, such as the Oil Pollution Act of 1990 and the Clean Water Act. Larsen has been a member of this committee since 2001. Last week, Larsen sent a letter to Chairman Oberstar, urging him to use this hearing to carefully examine the environmental, economic and legal issues associated with this tragedy.
The following are Rep. Larsen’s remarks as prepared for delivery:
As federal agencies work to contain and clean up this spill, we must also begin to examine the environmental, economic and legal issues arising from this tragedy.
The Deepwater Horizon oil spill is a major human and environmental disaster of potentially unprecedented proportions. If this disaster was a bad 1960’s sci-fi movie, it would be the equivalent of Godzilla, Rodan, Gamera and Monster X teaming up to destroy the Gulf of Mexico.
As a representative from the Puget Sound, I understand how devastating an oil spill would be to a coastal region. I want to do everything possible to prevent an oil spill from occurring in Puget Sound and other areas of the country.
Results from the Washington State Oil Spill Advisory Council report outlined challenges facing a modest oil spill in the Puget Sound. Among its findings, the Council determined:
· Only 20-40 percent of a modest spill would be recoverable within two days of the spill;
· There is a shortage of booming equipment and response personnel in the Puget Sound; and
· The ability to track a spill at night or in fog (the latter being a specific problem to the Puget Sound) is severely limited by available technology.
The Deepwater Horizon spill raises significant concerns regarding the future of offshore drilling in the United States. I propose that the country take a step back to ensure that any future offshore drilling in the Gulf will live up to oil companies’ claims of safety and reliability.
First, future offshore drilling must occur within a legal framework that leaves no doubt that companies are fully responsible for any spills or leaks they cause. Congress must act to lift the liability caps in the Oil Pollution Act in order to match the potential magnitude of spills and leaks.
Second, the Oil Spill Liability Trust Fund must be replenished and the per barrel fee raised to match the increased hazard of deep sea drilling.
Third, it seems clear that the tested technology to facilitate deep sea drilling and provide fail-safe response to disasters failed. When the fail-safe fails, we all suffer. I find it very difficult to see how deep sea drilling can survive without a more thorough public-driven testing and certification of drilling methods and response measures.
While the final impacts of this potentially massive environmental disaster remain unknown, the situation has raised a number of troubling questions. I look forward to investigating these questions and examining the best ways to strengthen our nation’s oil spill response and prevention laws.
Finally, I join my Washington state colleagues in sponsoring legislation to ban drilling off the coast of our state and other states on the Pacific Coast. The “drill here, drill now” mantra should not apply to the Washington state coast or the Puget Sound. The Deepwater Horizon disaster has made the waters of the Gulf murkier and need for a ban on West Coast drilling clearer.