"The BP DEEPWATER HORIZON oil spill was unprecedented in size and duration. It left a tremendous natural and economic disaster in its wake. The joint Coast Guard and Department of the Interior investigation into the causes of the explosion and sinking of DEEPWATER HORIZON, as well as the failure of the blowout preventer to contain the spill is still ongoing. The Subcommittee will examine the findings of the official investigation once it is complete.
"While we await the findings of the investigation, the National Commission on the BP Deepwater Horizon Oil Spill, as well as the report of the National Incident Commander has helped highlight significant questions regarding the best methods for the industry and the Federal government to use to prevent and respond to future oil spills.
"This hearing provides the subcommittees with the opportunity to hear recommendations of the Commission and the National Incident Commander on changes needed to Federal laws and regulations to help reduce the likelihood a similar event happens in the future.
"I am concerned with the findings of the Commission and the National Incident Commander that officials at all levels of government were unfamiliar with the National Contingency Plan, our nation's 42 year old blueprint for how to respond to oil spills. But I am particularly alarmed that senior leaders at the Department of Homeland Security were either unaware or simply misunderstood how the plan functions. I am troubled the failure of the Department's leadership to recognize, accept, and follow the Plan slowed the stand up of command and control in the days after the spill, undermined public confidence in the government, and may have impeded response.
"But this speaks to a larger issue this subcommittee has been concerned with since the Coast Guard was transferred to the Department of Homeland Security. And that is the Department does not understand, nor appreciate the traditional missions of the Coast Guard. While critically important, port security accounts for only 20 percent of what the Coast Guard does on a daily basis. The remaining 80 percent are traditional missions like oil spill response. These missions require the Department's leadership to understand that they need to commit adequate resources and attention, as well as participate fully in training and preparedness activities. Unfortunately, that was not the case with the BP DEEPWATER HORIZON incident.
"Nearly 20 years ago, the Oil Pollution Act of 1990 created a national framework for preventing and responding to oil spills in U.S. waters. Since the passage of that Act, there have been significant changes in the offshore production, storage, and transportation of petroleum products, and with these changes the requirements to respond to potential incidents have grown more complex. This spill demonstrates that we may need to reexamine the requirements under current law to ensure they are applicable to present day operations.
"Finally, I would be remiss if I did not take this opportunity to remember the 11 Transocean crewmembers who were lost as a result of this tragedy and to express my sympathy to their families, friends, and co-workers."