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Mr. Chair, I rise today to voice my strong opposition to H.R. 1229 and H.R. 1230.
In April 2010, our Nation watched as millions of gallons of oil spilled into the Gulf of Mexico from an oil drilling rig off the coast of Louisiana. We saw photos of the disaster that ensued, the impact on our environment (including the damage caused to marine and coastal wildlife) and the devastating economic impact on communities in the Gulf Coast region. From the loss of fishing jobs and revenue from tourism to the harm of biodiversity in fragile wetland ecosystems and marine life breeding grounds, this oil spill caused immense destruction to a resource rich area.
I am concerned that without changes to the offshore drilling industry standards, a disaster like the Deepwater Horizon explosion of April 2010 could happen again. Today, the majority in the House is asking us to pass H.R. 1229 and to forget about the tragic events of last April and the inadequacies of our national energy policy in order to grant Big Oil access to the Gulf with less oversight--rushing lease sales in the Gulf of Mexico at an unprecedented pace and without proper environmental review. This bill is not only ill-advised, but it is unnecessary as well because the Obama Administration is already moving forward with the lease sales in the Gulf of Mexico with added reviews to ensure sound safety and environment protections.
In addition, H.R. 1230 would require the Interior Department to hold additional lease sales in the Gulf of Mexico over the next 4 to 8 months and open the eastern seaboard for drilling by requiring a lease sale off the coast of Virginia this year. This bill would require the Interior Department to rely on environmental reviews for these areas done by the Bush Administration prior to the Deepwater Horizon disaster, with many of the same demonstrably flawed and dangerous assumptions and inadequate review processes as the BP lease that led to the disastrous spill in April 2010. The majority in Congress is using rising gasoline prices as an excuse to grant large, multi-national energy companies greater access to even more of our precious shores, including on the Atlantic Coast which could affect New Jersey in the event of a spill.
I believe opening our coastal waters and protected wilderness areas to oil drilling is harmful, ineffective, and a step in the wrong direction that will damage our environment. We are currently drilling at a higher rate than we ever have and onshore production increased by 5% in 2010. Production in the Gulf of Mexico is at an all time high. Yet, of the 41 million acres of public lands now leased for oil and gas development, just 12 million acres are producing. Offshore, 38 million acres of the outer continental shelf are leased for oil and gas drilling, but just 6.5 million acres are producing. We have approved drilling leases on land where no drilling is taking place; the potential for higher production is there without expanding leasing to environmentally sensitive wildlife refuges or populated shore regions.
Moreover, the proposed drilling will not significantly lower gas prices. According to a 2009 study from the Energy Information Administration, opening up waters that are currently closed to drilling off the East Coast, West Coast and the Gulf coast of Florida would yield an extra 500,000 barrels a day by 2030, meaning that gas prices might drop a total of 3 cents a gallon. And that is years away. In the meantime, Big Oil companies continue to rake in record profits while taxpayers subsidize their costs. The American people have had enough, New Jersey has had enough and I have had enough. We need to stop Big Oil subsidies and explore alternatives.
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