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BP Oil Spill Disaster: Day 52

Floor Speech

Location: Washington, DC

Ms. ROS-LEHTINEN. Mr. Speaker, today represents day 52 of the worst environmental disaster in U.S. history, and on this 52nd day, BP is no closer to finding a solution. As families and small businesses in the Florida Keys and across the gulf coast continue to suffer, BP has failed to come through on an effective strategy for plugging the gushing rig and for picking up the oil.

My office has been flooded with calls from constituents eager to offer their assistance in the cleanup effort. Commercial fishermen, charter boat captains stand ready to lay boom and skim oil before it reaches the shore. Community organizations like United Way and the Florida Keys Environment Coalition have gathered volunteers ready to patrol the shoreline searching for tar balls. Unfortunately, BP has not provided these groups with the necessary training to assist in the cleanup effort.

As many constituents have complained to me, BP is failing to utilize members of the Keys community. Instead, BP is waiting until oil washes ashore to take action.

Additionally, many residents have called to offer their suggestions on how to clean up this mess. I sincerely hope that BP is giving due consideration to all of these suggestions. Clearly, BP's plan has not worked. The cleanup plan in Louisiana is abysmal. It is time for BP to look elsewhere.

Yesterday, I met with BP executives to discuss the company's slow, uncoordinated, and half-baked response efforts in Florida. At this meeting, I relayed the frustrations of many south Florida small business owners who are going through the BP claims process. These individuals are required to go through a long, complicated, and belittling process in order to receive the compensation that they serve because, for their economic loss, they had a downturn in business as a result of the premature panic from the BP oil spill.

Let me be clear: These hardworking men and women are not looking for a handout, Mr. Speaker. They would much rather be working. Unfortunately, the disaster in the gulf has taken a tremendous toll on fishermen, on dive shops, on restaurants, on motels, and many tourist-related businesses in the Keys.

BP needs to completely revamp its claims process. In the Keys, two claims offices opened by BP are virtually useless. Individuals seeking compensation leave these offices with stacks of complicated paperwork, legal documentation, and little guidance.

I have requested detailed information from BP on its claims process. We need to demand complete transparency in this process, including data on how claims are being evaluated, how payment sums are being determined, and how quickly claims are being processed. Complicated legal documents just will not do.

On a related note, the Federal agencies need to come up with a plan in the event of a tropical storm or hurricane in the gulf. Hurricane season has just started. Experts at the National Hurricane Center predict that the 2010 hurricane season could be one of the most active on record. Forecasters are predicting anywhere between 14 to 23 named storms this season. Of course, it only takes one. Just ask the Florida residents who suffered through Hurricane Andrew, or just ask those residents in New Orleans who are still recovering from Hurricane Katrina.

In addition to a predicted active storm season, our communities are now saddled with the uncertainty of an oil spill. The ruptured oil rig is located right in the middle of hurricane alley. Scientists have suggested that the sheer strength of a hurricane could turn the oil slick into a devastating black surf. I shudder to think of the long-term economic devastation and environmental damage caused by this toxic combination.

BP and, indeed, all of our Federal agencies must prepare now for a worst-case scenario later. BP cannot continue to sit idly by while communities are destroyed.

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