Chairman LoBiondo Holds Hearing on Oil Pollution Trust Fund
Presses Administration Officials to Ensure Fund Reimburses Claims of those Affected by Athos I, Hurricane-Related Gulf Coast Spills
WASHINGTON, D.C. - Days after another oil spill was reported in the Delaware River, House Coast Guard & Maritime Transportation Subcommittee Chairman Frank A. LoBiondo (NJ-02) convened a Congressional hearing to question the contingency plans of the Administration in processing and approving claims against the Oil Pollution Liability Trust Fund. Created under the 1990 "Oil Pollution Act," current claims - including those from the November 2004 Athos I spill in the Delaware River and Gulf Coast claims originating from spills caused by Hurricanes Katrina and Rita - against the Trust exceed the balance of the Fund.
"Over the past two years, we have been reminded time and again of the importance of the Coast Guard's oil spill prevention and response missions. As recently as two days ago, the Coast Guard responded to a 7 mile long oil slick in the Delaware Bay, which is still under investigation. This spill coupled with the recent hurricanes in the Gulf Coast region and last year's large oil spills in the Delaware River and off of the coast of Alaska have resulted in the release of millions of gallons of crude oil into U.S. waters," said Chairman LoBiondo in his opening statement. "With estimates that the costs associated with response and restoration activities could reach up to $800 million, I am deeply concerned about the effect recent and future events may have on the long-term health of the Fund."
Chairman LoBiondo conducted the hearing as the Administration is soon to transfer spill claims related to destruction caused by Hurricanes Katrina and Rita in the Gulf Coast from repayment under FEMA to the Trust Fund. Additionally, LoBiondo pressed Rear Admiral Thomas H. Gilmour, Assistant Commandant for Marine Safety, Security and Environmental Protection, and David Kennedy - Director of the Office of Response and Restoration at the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) - about the status of research being conducted by the Coast Guard into preventing and responding to future oil spills.
"The Oil Pollution Act' requires federal agencies to conduct a wide scope of oil spill research; however we have made very little progress towards this goal," remarked Chairman LoBiondo. "I believe it is vital we continue to develop technologies and procedures to improve our prevention and response to oil spills. In a simple cost-benefit analysis: the clean-up and restoration costs are simply too great not to invest in prevention technology."