National Security and Dependence on Oil

Floor Speech

By:  Judy Chu
Date: June 16, 2010
Location: Washington, DC

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Ms. CHU. Thank you, Congressman Garamendi, and thank you for bringing this very, very important order to the floor tonight.

I would like to focus for a moment on the oil spill and its impact on the victims.

Kim Tran doesn't know how he will pay this month's car insurance, and he has got no idea how he will take care of his mortgage, but what he is most in the dark about is when he will be able to get back in the water and start working again.

Kim is a deckhand on a commercial fishing boat which is stationed near Buras, Louisiana, in Plaquemines Parish. He is part of a close-knit community of Vietnamese and Cambodian shrimpers whom the gulf oil spill has hit particularly hard. Many of them came to the gulf coast in the 1980s as war refugees from Vietnam. They did well. It is estimated that the Vietnamese Americans own between one-third and one-half of all of the fishing vessels on the gulf coast.

After Katrina, they were one of the first groups to rebuild, but figuring out how to recover from the recent manmade disaster has been difficult. You see, for many of these fishermen, language is a barrier as bottomless as the Deepwater Horizon's well. Because English isn't essential for fishing, many have never learned it, so they rely on interpreters to help them cross the language barrier. It takes 14 words to translate the word ``dispersant'' into Vietnamese--and don't even get me started on what to do with acronyms like ``EPA.''

So not only have these fishermen lost their normal sources of work, but they have been locked out of the cleanup effort, too. Many have even had problems filing basic claims for lost income. These Vietnamese fishermen are just one group affected by the tragic gulf oil spill. Indeed, this spill has devastated lives up and down the gulf coast. It is the biggest environmental disaster in our Nation's history.

Yet Congress is working hard to repair the damage that has been done. I've joined in the effort to secure $85 million in emergency funding to assess and respond to damages from the oil spill. This money improves the Federal response and guarantees compensation to out-of-work fishermen, but we know that is not enough.

I am proud also to sponsor a very, very important bill on the Judiciary Committee. This bill is called the SPILL Act. It fixes our outdated liability laws, and it ensures that we can hold those who caused this spill accountable for the damage that they have done, but we know that's not enough either.

So I've cosponsored the bill to impose a moratorium on new drilling off the western coast of our country. The suspension is a great step forward to ensuring that a disaster like this never happens again. And even then, it's still not enough. Indeed, the only solution to this disaster, the only thing that truly makes sense, is to finally end this country's addiction to oil.

For decades, oil companies and lobbyists killed energy reform to keep their profits. For decades, our dependence on oil has hurt our economy and put the security of our country and our environment at risk. For decades, we knew that offshore drilling was just a disaster waiting to happen. Well, the news is that it has happened. And the Gulf oil spill shows that it's time to take back control of our energy policies--with clean power made right here in America.

We will never be able to undue this spill. As much as we wish it didn't happen, we can't pretend it never did. If we do, Kim Tran's worries about his car and house payments will only be afterthoughts because his town of Buras, and countless others like it along the Gulf Coast, will just disappear. But we will not let that happen.

Join me and make sure that these fishermen, these people, these families haven't suffered in vain. And let's make sure we clean up this spill, hold those who caused it accountable, and make sure it never happens again. Together, we will end our addiction to oil and create a better, cleaner future for our country.

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