As you are aware, we are continuing to witness a tragedy unfold in the Gulf of Mexico. Hundreds of thousands of barrels of oil have leaked into the Gulf endangering both humans and wildlife. Coastal economies are struggling as fishermen are kept from working, restaurant and hotel workers see a decline in tourism and precious ecological wetlands are in peril. And what seems to have been forgotten in the coverage of the spill is the fact that 11 workers were killed in the initial oil rig explosion.
We face an unprecedented difficulty in stopping this leak; we have never had a leak this size as far below the ocean's surface. But difficulty is not an excuse. We must do whatever is necessary to stop the leak, and if BP will not cooperate, we need to make them cooperate. I know that President Obama has already forced BP to drill a second relief well when it wanted to only drill one, and has been very proactive in setting up booms and skimmers to contain the spill. However, we need to do more, and last week I sent a letter to President Obama urging him to increase his efforts and not allow BP to hamstring the government's attempts to plug the leak. I am hopeful that the "top kill" procedure will be successful in stopping the leak, but if it does not succeed, we need to try something new every day until we stop the flow of oil.
Additionally, we must ensure that BP -- not American taxpayers -- pay for stopping the leak, clean up the damage, and compensate the people whose livelihoods or property have been harmed. I am a cosponsor of legislation which will raise the liability of oil companies in the event of a spill from $75 million to $10 billion. This legislation is currently being opposed by Republicans in the Senate, but I urge my colleagues to act on it quickly.
It's unfortunate that tragedy is often a catalyst for bold change. But change we must. Oil will always be a part of our energy supply, but we must end our overreliance on oil. The U.S. possesses only 2 percent of the world's oil reserves, yet we use 25 percent of the oil produced worldwide. We must move towards a more diverse energy portfolio, one which uses American-made wind turbines and solar panels, and one which reduces our dependence on oil.
My thoughts and prayers go out to the families of the 11 workers who perished on the oil rig. While we can never make these families whole again, we can do everything in our power to prevent a future tragedy. I have already expressed to President Obama my belief that no new offshore drilling should occur until we are sure that proper safety measures have been put into place. Please know that I will continue to monitor this situation closely and that the federal government, under the leadership of President Obama, is doing all it can to stop the leak and protect both our economy and our environment.
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Member of Congress