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Safer Oil and Natural Gas Drilling Technology Research and Development Act

Floor Speech

By:
Date:
Location: Washington, DC

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Mr. HALL of Texas. I yield myself such time as I may consume.

Madam Speaker, I rise in support of H.R. 5716, the Safer Oil and Natural Gas Drilling Technology Research and Development Act.

As we near the 100-day mark since the beginning of the Deepwater Horizon disaster, our understanding of the precise causes of the accident--and the missteps in the days that followed--remain unclear.

However, regardless of the ultimate causes of and best responses to the disaster, it makes sense to continue pursuing improvements to safe and environmentally responsible drilling operations as well as effective spill response systems.

The two oil spill-related bills under consideration by the House today represent the Science and Technology Committee's contribution to this effort and are likely to have a significant impact on future drilling and response mitigation efforts.

The program offered by this bill, H.R. 5716, was established in section 999 of the Energy Policy Act of 2005. It supports through a collaborative effort between the Department of Energy and a university industry research consortium cutting-edge technologies to enhance safe and environmentally responsible offshore and onshore oil and gas development.

The program has contributed significantly to transformational advances in deep offshore and onshore drilling technologies that are helping to efficiently and responsibly recover energy supplies long known to exist but which were previously inaccessible. The recovery of these resources has resulted in significant benefits to taxpayers in the form of domestic jobs and affordable energy, as well as increasing royalties to the fund that pays for the program in the first place.

The changes to EPAct section 999 made by H.R. 5716 are the product of extensive negotiations with the majority to develop compromised legislation in response to the Deepwater Horizon disaster. Specifically, the bill makes three changes to the existing statute. First, it shifts the focus of each of the program's four elements towards advancing safety and accident prevention and mitigation technologies associated with oil and natural gas exploration and production.

Second, it adjusts the award allocations among these four programs reducing deepwater and unconventional onshore natural gas programs by a small amount while increasing the allocation for Department of Energy in-house research from 25 percent to 35 percent.

And, third, it redefines and expands the scope of offshore R&D activities to those involving water depths of a thousand feet or greater, a reduction from the 5,000 feet in current law, and in doing so, modifies the current focus on ``ultra-deepwater'' activities to pertain simply to deepwater activities.

Additionally, the bill makes numerous additional minor changes to the management and structure of the 999 program while preserving its original goals and objectives which recognize America's domestic oil and natural gas resources are important national priorities that contribute significantly to job growth and to the economy while reducing dependence on foreign sources of energy.

While this precise focus and detailed language in this bill is not ideal, it represents a fair and responsible and reasonable compromise that preserves and strengthens the section 999 program. This is the only R&D program in the Federal Government capable of ramping up its activities quickly and effectively to address renewed interest in drilling technology research in the wake of the Deepwater Horizon disaster. Given the administration's efforts to terminate any and all research and development relating to oil and natural gas, this program is all the more vital.

I want to again extend my thanks to Chairman Gordon for working with me and with us on this bill and the staffs working with one another. I look forward to continued bipartisan cooperation on this bill as the legislative process moves forward. I urge Members to support my bill.

I reserve the balance of my time.

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