By Senator Scott Brown
Published by the Worcester Telegram & Gazette on June 24th, 2010
It seems impossible that we can watch in real time over the Internet as underwater cameras capture crude oil gushing relentlessly into our ocean thousands of miles away, yet there has not been a successful effort to stop the leak.
Sixty-six days ago, Americans began watching in horror as the Gulf Coast region experienced the nightmare that has become the worst manmade environmental disaster in our nation's history. As the damage continues to wreak havoc on wildlife as well as families, businesses and livelihoods in the Gulf region, I have been disappointed to see political gamesmanship and grandstanding from both political parties instead of coming together to solve this massive problem.
In a truly bipartisan manner, I have partnered with U.S. Sen. Dianne Feinstein, a Democrat from California, to introduce the Oil Spill Prevention and Mitigation Act to stop the leak, mitigate damage to the environment, stem the job loss and ensure this disaster can never happen again.
First, our legislation requires oil companies, like BP, to have a backup plan before their drill ever enters our oceans. BP was astonishingly unprepared and ill-equipped to deal with their leak. The federal government has even acknowledged that oil companies have not been held to the highest standards when it comes to having a fail-safe response plan to a spill in deep water. While everyone understands that accidents can happen, Americans are rightly furious that there was neither a viable nor urgent response plan in place to stop the leak or to begin mitigating the damage -- on Day One.
To prevent future spills, our bill requires that oil companies have a viable, peer-reviewed response plan to respond to a significant oil leak before any new offshore drilling lease can be issued. Currently, oil companies are only required by the Mineral Management Service to have boilerplate prevention mechanisms, like the blowout preventer that failed at Deepwater Horizon, but are not required to have a fail-safe back-up plan to stop a leak once it has started.
Second, every scientist and engineer with relevant experience should be working on stopping the leak. Although President Obama has assembled a small team of scientists in Houston to work on stopping the spill, I believe that the Department of Energy should be gathering more resources and experts. The legislation would immediately redirect existing funds within the Department of Energy's deepwater program to build a team, comprised of private sector engineers, and experts from the National Academy of Sciences, to stop the leak and mitigate the damage to wildlife, the environment, and businesses in the region.
Finally, we need to find out what went wrong.
There has been much confusion about what existing authorities and resources the Obama administration can and should be using to stop the spill and protect the environment in the Gulf of Mexico. Our bill would require the Government Accountability Office to investigate whether or not the administration has used all existing authorities and resources to respond to the Deepwater Horizon spill, including specific authorities created after the Exxon Valdez disaster 20 years ago.
Estimates show that at least 80 million gallons of crude oil have leaked into our waters so far, and the numbers keep climbing.
To put that enormous amount in perspective, approximately 11 million gallons of oil was spilled in total from Exxon Valdez, which was previously our nation's worst oil spill disaster.
Although the Gulf will take years to recover, and some of the damage will never be able to be repaired, the Oil Spill Prevention and Mitigation Improvement Act is a common-sense response to this terrible disaster that will help get us on the right track to stop the current leak and ensure that something like this doesn't happen again.