The members of the House of Representatives Sustainable Energy & Environment Coalition (SEEC) sent a letter today to House Republican leaders urging them to prioritize congressional action on the recommendations of the Presidential Commission on the BP Oil Spill. The Commission's report, released last month, made several recommendations to the Congress to strengthen regulation and oversight of the offshore drilling industry, and indicated that congressional action was necessary in order to avoid the possibility of another disastrous spill.
The letter, signed by 40 members of the House caucus and addressed to House Speaker John Boehner (R-OH) and House Natural Resources Committee Chairman Doc Hastings (R-WA), points to the Commission's assertion that "'systemic failure' on the part of industry and regulators led to the spill," in April 2010. The letter explains that although the Administration has moved forward with important reforms, "without congressional action to permanently reorganize the regulatory system and set strong safety and environmental standards, we will see more damage to jobs, public safety, and the environment."
"Republican congressional leaders should prioritize bipartisan action to implement common-sense reforms to prevent the occurrence of another Deepwater Horizon catastrophe," said SEEC Co-Chair Rep. Jay Inslee (D-WA). "We owe it to the workers who lost their lives and the communities and ecosystems that were devastated."
"The BP spill was a wake-up call of epic proportions, yet the fundamental loopholes that led to the disaster remain unchanged," said SEEC Vice Chair Rep. Jared Polis (D-CO). "The administration has made great strides, but we need both chambers of Congress to enact meaningful reforms like those outlined by the Spill Commission."
"It is a shame that the BP Deepwater Horizon oil spill now is considered "old news.' The tragic spill -- the biggest in our nation's history -- has made all too evident the shortcomings with offshore drilling: the oil industry's systemic drilling safety failures, the outdated rules governing liability for spills, and the federal government's inability to respond in the event of a spill. News coverage of the disaster in the Gulf may have disappeared, but these issues have not gone away. And given that it's a question of when, but not if the next big spill occurs, it's vital that we take necessary action," said SEEC Vice Chair Rep. Rush Holt (D-NJ), the ranking Democrat on the Natural Resources Energy & Mineral Resources Subcommittee.
"The Commission could not have been more clear: not only was this tragedy of historic proportions avoidable, but it could happen again unless industry, the Administration, and Congress initiate key reforms to enhance the protection of workers and the environment. I'm hopeful the new Republican leadership will soon bring to the floor the bi-partisan, independent recommendations of the Commission. Inaction on this issue is unacceptable," said SEEC member Rep. Lois Capps (D-CA).
Last Congress, the Democratically-controlled House passed the Consolidated Land, Energy, and Aquatic Resources (CLEAR) Act (H.R. 3534), which addressed many of concerns seen in the Commission's recommendations. However, during debate on the CLEAR Act, many House Republicans voiced opposition to legislative action until the Commission had finished its work. Now that the Commission has released its report, SEEC is calling on House Republicans to fulfill that pledge, arguing that "now, swift action is even more necessary to address the Commission's recommendations, and we should pass legislation like the CLEAR Act to protect our communities and ecosystems from such disasters, and to hold responsible companies, not the taxpayers and victims, accountable for the economic and environmental damages, should one occur."
"An oil spill that affects our nation's businesses, wildlife, environment, energy security and human health should not be a partisan issue. Let us resolve to work together to implement these recommendations from this clear-thinking, well regarded National Commission established by President Obama," said SEEC Vice Chair Rep. Paul Tonko (D-NY). "Failure by Congress to implement these changes would not only be insensitive to those living in the Gulf Coast, it would also be unwise as we know this disaster could have been prevented."
"After the environmental devastation caused by the BP oil spill, it is hard to believe that anyone would continue to support the notion that oil companies should be categorically excluded from NEPA when drilling on the Outer Continental Shelf," said SEEC Vice Chair Rep. Gerry Connolly (D-VA). "Oil drilling, which has the capacity to destroy whole ecosystems, must be subject to rigorous environmental safeguards like other federally-regulated activities."
"We need to address the systemic failures that lead to the Gulf being covered in oil last summer, and this report provides direction for Congress" said SEEC Vice Chair Rep. Chellie Pingree (D-ME) "But as we go farther and dig deeper for oil--pushing or even overstepping our understanding of the risks -- will we ever be able to ensure safety? It's never been clearer that we need to develop cleaner sources of energy that don't expose us to this kind of catastrophic risk in the first place."
SEEC member Rep. Peter Welch (D-VT) said that "too often when disasters like the Gulf Coast oil spill occur, we pledge to take action but then fail to follow-through. We owe it to the people and the environment of the Gulf Coast to make sure that -- this time -- we learn from our mistakes. Congress must act immediately to implement the recommendations of the oil spill commission and ensure that this never happens again."
On January 25, SEEC members Reps. Lois Capps (D-CA), Rush Holt (D-NJ), Peter Welch (D-VT), Steve Cohen (D-TN), and Lynn Woolsey (D-CA) held a press conference calling on House Republican leaders to act on the recommendations of the report, particularly as they relate to needed structural and regulatory reforms, the rules governing the economic liability of companies responsible for environmental disasters, and ensuring that industry and the federal government have necessary information and technology to help prevent and properly respond to oil spills.