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Public Statements

Hearing of the Senate Commerce Committee - Should be Further From the Truth

Statement

By:
Date:
Location: Washington, DC

Senator John Kerry (D-Mass.), co-author of the American Power Act, the Senate's comprehensive energy independence and climate change legislation, today said that the aggressive response to the oil spill in the Gulf should drive the Senate to pass legislation this year.

"I was stunned to hear some say the spill made passing energy independence legislation this year more difficult," said Senator Kerry this afternoon at a Senate Commerce hearing. "Nothing should be further from the truth. This disaster should force Congress and the Administration to revisit our existing laws governing liability, safety, permitting, preparedness and environmental review when it comes to offshore exploration -- but make no mistake, above all else, it should also drive a serious national dialogue and a debate on legislation this year to advance our nation's clean energy future."

The full text of his statement as prepared is below:

Mr. Chairman, this is a critical hearing for both the short term and the long haul, both to help us understand the current status of cleanup efforts in the Gulf, but also to explore what policies and requirements are needed to prevent history from repeating itself.

This Committee has an important oversight role to play. We have jurisdiction over the two federal agencies represented here today, which hold primary responsibility for responding to oil spills, as well as understanding the impact of those spills on the marine and coastal environment. Already, the President has made it clear that change is needed at the agency level -- accepting Secretary Salazar's judgment to split MMS into two pieces so that the regulators are no longer also making deals with the industries on leasing, but also making changes in the leadership itself. It will be up to this Committee to exercise oversight and ask tough questions to find out whether other changes are required as well.

Mr. Chairman, over the past 72 hours, it seems that significant progress has been made in slowing the flow of oil to the surface by inserting a tube into the pipe from which most of the oil has been leaking. In addition, BP has indicated plans to seal off the well as early as this weekend.

While I am encouraged by this progress, I have significant concerns regarding what went wrong aboard the Deepwater Horizon, resulting in economic and environmental harm to the Gulf and its coastal communities which is not yet even capable of being measured. I also am deeply concerned about the potential disruption of the underwater ecosystem - particularly due to the application of toxic underwater dispersants.

As we work to develop legislation that would create a vibrant clean energy future for our nation, we must get serious about the management and oversight of our energy resources. I am frustrated by the finger-pointing that has dominated the public discourse over this disaster. We need to quickly and honestly clarify what went wrong, determine whether there was any carelessness or negligence, evaluate the extent of the damages, and identify who is responsible to cover what costs. On this final point, I am encouraged by BP's statements that they will provide full compensation.

But Mr. Chairman, one point about which I feel very strongly, is that no matter what BP does, no matter what any oil company does, so long as we're dependent on fossil fuels for the bulk of our energy needs, we're in danger. Today - as we speak - tankers are moving through narrow straits around the globe to bring oil to our shores from abroad. Those are oil spills waiting to happen. So long as we're so dependent, we'll be drilling deeper and deeper and shipping oil farther and farther. The risk should surprise no one.

I was stunned to hear some say the spill made passing energy independence legislation this year more difficult. Nothing should be further from the truth. Quite the opposite -- this disaster should force Congress and the Administration to revisit our existing laws governing liability, safety, permitting, preparedness and environmental review when it comes to offshore exploration -- but make no mistake, above all else, it should also drive a serious national dialogue and a debate on legislation this year to advance our nation's clean energy future.


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