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Public Statements

Providing for Consideration of H.R. 3534, Consolidated Land, Energy, and Aquatic Resources Act of 2010; and Providing for Consideration of H.R. 5851, Offshore Oil and Gas Worker Whistleblower Protection Act of 2010

Floor Speech

By:
Date:
Location: Washington, DC

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Ms. PINGREE of Maine. Mr. Speaker, I yield myself such time as I may consume.

Mr. Speaker, House Resolution 1574 provides for consideration of H.R. 3534, the Consolidated Land, Energy, and Aquatic Resources Act of 2010, under a structured rule; and H.R. 5851, the Offshore Oil and Gas Worker Whistleblower Protection Act of 2010, under a closed rule.

Mr. Speaker, April 20, 2010, became a day that will live in history as one of the worst environmental disasters in decades. When explosion and fire ripped through the Deepwater Horizon, the first priority was saving the lives of the crew. Sadly, for 11 men it was too late.

As the oil flowed out of the well and as BP unsuccessfully tried to stop it, the Nation watched, captivated by the story and by the untold damage to gulf coast communities. We learned a new language, the language of the offshore oil and gas industry. Terms like ``blowout preventer'' and ``top kill'' became common words to the American people, to news shows and on the House floor. The evening news was soon filled with pictures of oil-coated beaches, dead pelicans, and fishermen who were afraid that their way of life was slipping away.

Today, as we debate these two very important bills, I wonder why it has taken us, Congress, so many years to act on the issues we are taking up today. The problems and challenges facing the management of our resources, like offshore oil and gas, are not new. In 2007, before I was elected to this body, Chairman Rahall recognized that we needed to reform the dysfunctional system that allowed BP to run the Deepwater Horizon rig without regard to the safety of their workers or to the health of the environment. Additionally, the ideas behind the CLEAR Act are not new. They are commonsense reforms that should have happened years ago. Maybe, if they had happened, the workers on the Deepwater Horizon would still be alive and the gulf would not be soaked in oil.

Mr. Speaker, we need to continue responding to the disaster in the gulf and not forget that catastrophic environmental damage has been done. We need to clean up and repair the gulf, to hold BP accountable for its oil spill, to enact stronger environmental, technological, and spill response standards, to conserve our natural resources, and to invest in an American clean energy future.

We must also remember that, in addition to cleaning up the mess, repairing the damage, and cracking down on big oil companies, we also have to get serious about ending our dependence on oil and creating new sources of clean energy. If we had a clean energy economy, powered by wind and solar and tidal power, we probably wouldn't be here having this discussion today.

Frankly, it is almost impossible for me to imagine what would have happened if my State, the State of Maine, had experienced a massive oil spill that had polluted the Gulf of Maine. It is almost impossible for me to imagine the devastation to our fishing families, to our tourism, and to our beautiful coastline if millions of gallons of crude oil were to begin washing offshore, but it is possible for me to imagine the same Gulf of Maine dotted with floating offshore wind turbines, wind turbines which would create good-paying jobs and provide an endless source of clean energy without the risk of environmental disaster.

Today, we are considering two bills that will help address some of our most egregious problems. This bill will provide protection for whistleblowers who alert the government to dangerous violations of Federal law. Nobody should be forced to choose between his or her job and reporting unsafe conditions. It will also improve the leasing process, making sure all companies follow the environmental and safety rules, and it will ensure royalties are paid on all oil drilled or spilled.

The CLEAR Act reorganizes the Department of the Interior to provide better management of the Nation's energy resources located on Federal lands and water. The act eliminates conflicts that arise when the same agency which is in charge of the environmental reviews of leases, of issuing leases, and of making sure the leaseholders and rig operators are in compliance with safety and environmental laws, then turns around and collects royalties from these same companies.

The disaster in the gulf makes it clear that we should be working to transition our economy to a clean energy future. Investments in clean energy will help in the recovery of our economy, and supporting renewable energy projects, like offshore wind, will strengthen the economy and help create good jobs that can't be shipped overseas.

I am glad that language is included in the bill that will reform royalty collection. I am proud of the work that we have done on this issue, and I thank Chairman Rahall for working with me on language included in this manager's amendment that will guarantee that BP pays royalties on every drop of oil spilled in the gulf.

I reserve the balance of my time.

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Ms. PINGREE of Maine. Mr. Speaker, throughout the spring and summer, the public outrage has been palpable--in Washington, among the pundits and talking heads, in my own State of Maine and, truly, everywhere in this country.

In Maine, we have a special understanding about the impact the BP oil spill is having on the people of the gulf coast. Just like them, our lives and livelihoods are closely linked to the ocean. Off the Maine coast, there is an amazing renewable resource--strong winds and tides that can power our economy and create good-paying jobs and reduce greenhouse gas pollution. I think it's time for us to start using it.

As someone from a community who relies on its working waterfront, I am asking that we stand with the hardworking men and women of the gulf coast in their time of need and make sure that those responsible are the ones that pay for the spill and that we strive to ensure that a spill like this never happens again.

I urge my fellow Members to vote for the rule and the underlying bill. I urge a ``yes'' vote on the previous question and on the rule.

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