For Immediate Release
September 15, 2005
Solis, Democrats Call for Hearings on Environmental and Water Infrastructure Impacts of Hurricane Katrina; Also Seek Hearing on Refinery Proposals
Washington, D.C. - Today, Representative Hilda L. Solis, Ranking Member of the Subcommittee on Environment and Hazardous Materials, released the following letter which was sent to Environment and Hazardous Materials Subcommittee Chairman Paul Gillmor on September 14, 2005, from the Democratic Members of the Subcommittee.
September 14, 2005
The Honorable Paul E. Gillmor
Subcommittee on Environment and Hazardous Materials
2125 Rayburn House Office Building
Washington, DC 20515
Dear Chairman Gillmor:
As Members of the Subcommittee on Environment and Hazardous Materials, we are writing to ask that timely hearings be held on the environmental cleanup and drinking water infrastructure impacts of Hurricane Katrina. We are also asking that the Subcommittee hold hearings and follow regular order on any legislative proposals relating to refineries. It is important to provide all members the opportunity to address both of these issues at the subcommittee level.
The environmental cleanup and the drinking water infrastructure implications of Hurricane Katrina are enormous. Department of Homeland Security (DHS) Secretary Michael Chertoff recently commented, "We're going to have to clean probably the greatest environmental mess we've ever seen in the country." Louisiana authorities identified a litany of contaminants which are likely to be found in floodwaters, including tens of millions of pounds of concrete, lumber, cars, and animal carcasses. Initial sampling by the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) has indicated high levels of lead, E. coli, and potentially more than one hundred other priority pollutants, including volatile organization compounds, semivolatile organic compounds (SVOCs), total metals, pesticides, herbicides, and polychlorinated biphenyls (PCBs).
The drinking water infrastructure along the Gulf Coast has also been decimated. Estimates indicate that more than 1,000 water systems were affected along the Gulf Coast, including nearly 100 in Alabama, more than 500 in Mississippi and nearly that many in Louisiana, many of them disabled or impaired by loss of electrical power. Approximately 380 drinking water systems in Louisiana are inoperable, and nearly 50 others are on a boil water notice. While the EPA continues to assist the Louisiana Department of Health and Hospitals in assessing drinking water infrastructure, we believe it is critical that the subcommittee of jurisdiction take swift oversight action to better understand the situation and monitor ongoing activities in the region.
We also request that you exert the jurisdiction of this Subcommittee over any new legislative proposals on refineries that would affect statutes in its jurisdiction. As you know, within the past year the Subcommittee on Environment and Hazardous Materials has been circumvented on several pieces of legislation directly affecting its jurisdiction, including a refinery proposal which was included in the House passed energy bill, H.R. 6. Without a hearing on the refinery proposal included in H.R. 6, Members were unable to hear from those communities most directly affected by changes to refinery siting and operation laws. To date, no mayors or other local government officials and no State officials have been allowed to testify on these proposals. We believe such a hearing on any new legislative proposal would provide Members with valuable information to make well informed policy decisions.
In short, the Members of the Environment and Hazardous Materials Subcommittee should be given an opportunity to perform their duties as members of the Subcommittee. It would be beneficial to the Congress and to the United States for this Subcommittee to hold hearings on both the environmental cleanup and the drinking water infrastructure impacts of Hurricane Katrina and any new legislative proposals relating to refineries. We look forward to working with you in a fair, democratic, and bipartisan process.
HILDA L. SOLIS
FRANK PALLONE, JR.
ALBERT R. WYNN
MICHAEL F. DOYLE
THOMAS H. ALLEN
JANICE D. SCHAKOWSKY
CHARLES A. GONZALEZ
JOHN D. DINGELL