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Department of the Interior, Environment, and Related Agencies Appropriations Act, 2006 - 2

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Location: Washington, DC


DEPARTMENT OF THE INTERIOR, ENVIRONMENT, AND RELATED AGENCIES APPROPRIATIONS ACT, 2006 -- (House of Representatives - May 19, 2005)

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Mr. GENE GREEN of Texas. Madam Chairman, today are considering the Interior Appropriations Bill, which provides Federal funding for our national parks, as well as the Environmental Protection Agency. I agree with the assessment of our ranking member, Mr. OBEY, that this subcommittee has done good work with a difficult allocation. I would have preferred more resources devoted to important environmental, land management, and land conservation programs.

As this bill moves forward, I hope to work with the subcommittee to provide EPA funding for a much-needed study on air toxics in east Harris County, which lies in the district I represent. The Houston Chronicle recently completed a five-part series titled "In Harm's Way" that investigated air toxics in these "fence-line" communities near industrial facilities.

In particular, the series noted that the Texas Commission on Environmental Quality found that folks residing in some of Houston's East End neighborhoods experience higher levels of potentially carcinogenic compounds than other areas.

For many years, residents have had concerns and questions about the quality of the air in Houston's East End, the potential relationship to local industry, and the potential health effects on families.

While it came to few conclusions about health impacts of air toxics in Houston, the Chronicle series raised an alarm and confirmed that there is a pressing need for a comprehensive Air Toxics Risk Assessment to properly identify any adverse health effects and their possible relationship to local industry.

With support from the EPA, the City of Houston plans to utilize methods from the EPA's National Urban Toxics Program, which has proven successful in other cities with air quality issues.

The City of Houston, partnering with the University of Texas School of Public Health, is already working to characterize the science and weigh the evidence on health effects. Federal funding would broaden the scope of these efforts to ensure that we can include the full range of risk assessment activities in our efforts to improve the air in Houston.

The folks in fence-line communities are often the workers who produce many of the essential energy and petrochemical products we all use everyday, and they deserve accurate information about their environment.

I look forward to working with the EPA on this effort and hope that the Appropriations Committee will see it fit to include this critical funding during conference negotiations on this legislation.

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Mr. GENE GREEN of Texas. Mr. Chairman, opening up the Offshore Continental Shelf will save $300 billion in natural gas costs over 20 years for our consumers and manufacturers. It is not just for businesses, but to heat and cool our homes we use natural gas. If we do not explore and produce off our potential, whether it be California, the eastern Gulf of Mexico, or anywhere else, we are going to continue to be held up by the world price. Our consumers will pay for it.

Mr. Chairman, I like the beaches in Texas, I like them in Florida and California, but I also know we need to use our natural resources.

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Supply and demand for energy is out of whack and our Nation needs more energy. The Federal Government tried to mandate demand reduction in the last energy crisis and it contributed to a nationwide recession we do not want to repeat.

A recent Gallup poll found that half of family budgets have been seriously affected by the recent rise in energy prices.

Opening the OCS could save $300 billion in natural gas costs over 20 years, for consumers and manufacturers. High natural gas costs are sending manufacturing jobs overseas, following the cheap gas.

Environmentally conscious nations like Norway, Denmark, Canada, Japan and the UK are safely and successfully producing natural gas from their coastal waters.

No nation can produce energy more responsibly than ours. I have been on oil and gas rigs and they have such few discharges into the ocean, a medium sized fishing boat will leak more in a year.

This amendment is a major opportunity for us to respond to today's energy crisis with a national solution. I feel justified in supporting this amendment because I am from a coastal district. My constituents feel the same way as I do on this issue.

Chemical production and oil and gas exploration, processing, and refining are Texas top coastal industries. My colleagues from Florida and California think only they have beaches, but coastal tourism is Texas's second largest coastal industry.

That fact alone shows the argument that oil and gas production and coastal tourism are mutually exclusive is just plain wrong. They are acting like Chicken Little, and cannot point to one beach in Texas that has been ruined by oil or natural gas production.

There will be less need for LNG facilities and LNG tankers when we tap our own offshore resources so we can use the safest mode of transportation in the world-pipelines.

To address the needs of American families, we need a 3 pronged strategy. First, we need more production and infrastructure to meet our needs of today and tomorrow.

Second, we need more conservation to keep our economy going as resources become more competitive globally.

Third, we need more research to transition our economy to future sources of energy, for a time when petrochemicals are only used for materials, and not as an everyday fuel.

Supporting only long-term solutions and conservation is just not enough. It might be easier if it was, but we need to do more for today's energy problems. We will need continued American energy production for some time.

My point is not that we can drill our way to cheap oil or drill our way to energy independence. If we allow domestic production to die out, conservation and research will not save us, and we will have to pay a terrible economic price.

I urge my colleagues to support oil and gas production in the Outer Continental Shelf.

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