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Congress Must Act to Defend the Gulf

Location: Washington, DC

Mr. CARTER. Mr. Speaker, I thank you for this hour. It's going to be an interesting couple of weeks on this issue of this oil spill, because we are going to get two conflicting points of view. I actually heard, I believe, that somehow this oil spill is now George W. Bush's fault. It reminds me of the game, the Kevin Bacon game that your job is no matter what actor or movie you lay out before the public, you have got to bring it back in seven cycles to Kevin Bacon. And it seems that everything that goes on in the United States, that the majority party seems to somehow think whatever goes on in the United States they can somehow track it back to George W. Bush.

And what I heard was that Mr. Bush had used a drilling rig at some point in his life, and therefore it's Bush's fault that there was a failure, or something to that extent, a failure on this BP drilling rig. It's time to really stop. It's getting a little old for the American public, for them to hear constantly that no matter what goes wrong in the Obama administration it's George W. Bush's fault. I think this is getting a little old and getting a little bit, it seems to be sort of a fantasy that seems to be prevailing.

We have got a great disaster in the gulf, and nobody's denying we have a great disaster in the gulf. Today I heard a man who actually knows something about drilling in the gulf. I haven't heard anyone stand up that has talked on the majority side tonight and said, By the way, I have drilled these, and let me tell you what has happened in the gulf.

But Trent Franks came before us today and showed us what has happened in the gulf--it is very interesting--and why the cap failed that they first started, and why the wells that are being drilled to intersect this well, the relief wells should be successful. And, you know, if you want to know how you do something, you ought to talk to somebody that's actually done it. And Trent, a Member of this body, has actually done it.

So we will find out, whenever we get this spill stopped, we will find out what happened in the gulf to cause this thing to blow out. And it may be human error. It may be the company's error. It may be shortcuts they

took. It may be the inspector's error. It could be just about anybody's error. We don't know.

Now, the truth is we don't have to know yet because the presumption is overwhelming that it's BP's responsibility, and they admit it. It's their responsibility. But blame-gaming is not going to stop the oil from flowing into the gulf. Putting our resources together at every level from every source is part of what you do when you have a national emergency. I don't care whether that national emergency has the name Katrina or Rita or Ike or any of the other names, or Carla or any of the other names of hurricanes that have swept across our gulf and attacked all Gulf States at some point in time, or it has the name--what's the name of this well? I can't even remember anymore. Anyway, just call it the BP well in the Gulf of Mexico that blew out. Blame game's not solving the problem.

What's the problem? When it's the hurricane, the wind's blowing and things are getting torn down, and we need to put our resources together to help the people and the industries that are attacked by that hurricane. Today we have animals, we have sea life, we have wildlife, sea life, human life that is threatened by this BP oil spill.

And our first job, and the job not only of British Petroleum but of those of us who have the responsibility of protecting this country, which would be the President of the United States, the executive department, this Congress, and everybody involved, should have immediately poured massive, massive support into doing something about this oil well and stopping this spill. And we should have done it through the people who have the intelligence and the technology to tell us just exactly what we are dealing with.

I wouldn't recommend you call a great white hunter in Africa to tell him how to put down this oil spill. I wouldn't recommend that you call a surgeon in Brooklyn, New York, and ask him to put down this oil spill. And I wouldn't recommend you talk to a community organizer and ask him how to put down this oil spill. I would recommend that you immediately, when this happened, approach those people who have the expertise to deal with this oil spill and do it. And quite honestly, I think we have to say that the President of the United States told us the buck stops with him, so he's the person who should have started this ball rolling when this whole thing started coming down on us.

I have got a little chart up here, the gulf spill timeline. And we are going to look at that for just a minute to see how well we did in deciding that we were, as a government, going to join the oil and gas industry in coming up with a solution to British Petroleum's disaster that they had created in our blessed Gulf of Mexico. In fact, I think I have the State with the largest amount of Gulf of Mexico coastline of any State in this Union. And it would be close, Florida would be a close second. And they may have more. I don't know. But certainly the State of Texas has a lot. So let's look at this thing for just a second.

April 20, 2010, and today is June 16. So looking back to April 20, the explosion occurred. Eleven people were killed. Right there we knew we had a problem. The first oil leak was officially recognized and revealed by the administration in Washington on April 24. So 4 days later, the administration acknowledged and revealed to us that there was an oil leak.

On April 28, the Secretary of the Interior, Mr. Salazar, traveled down to the BP command center in Houston. April 29, the Homeland Security Secretary Napolitano announced a spill of national significance, and President Obama made his first public remarks about the disaster. That's 9 days after it occurred. April 30, the President deployed his senior administration officials to the gulf region and makes a request for remarks about what's going on, and the Louisiana National Guard was activated to assist. That's a start. That's a first start.

The President visits the gulf on May 2. It looks like 13 days after the event. Cabinet officers briefed the Members of Congress on May 4 about the seriousness of this event.

May 11, Louisiana requests emergency permission from the Federal Government to dredge barriers to construct berms. Now, when I was about 18 years old, I worked in south Louisiana, and the whole ecology and economy of Louisiana is directly affected by what they call the marshlands. There are literally thousands of people who make their living because the marshlands in Louisiana thrive to be breeding grounds and producing grounds for numerous amounts of seafood products. And in fact, I would venture to say that there's not anybody who eats seafood in the United States, and have done so for any length of time at all in their life, has eaten seafood that was produced as a result of the overall environment of the Louisiana coastal region, which is 99 percent marsh.

Now, marsh is different from the beach. The beach is bad. If you've got a beautiful beach like they had at Pensacola, that gorgeous white sand, or anywhere in Alabama or Mississippi or anywhere in Florida, tar balls on the beach and this nasty sludge coming into the beach is going to be icky and yucky and nasty. And if you get it all over your feet, you have to clean it off with alcohol, and it can burn you and tear you up.

But if that stuff comes into the marsh, it can kill and will kill plant life, animal life, and ocean life.

So when the Governor of Louisiana, who was so unfairly criticized here tonight by the opposition, when the Governor said, look, guys, at least authorize some dredging to put some sand barriers between us, between our marsh and that terrible spill that's headed our direction, and yet it wasn't until the 27th of May that the Federal Government granted Louisiana a partial permission to dredge sand up to build sort of an island-like barrier so maybe that oil will hit the sand and not come in where all the plants and the wildlife and the sea life lives and thrives and functions.

But that was only 27 days too late, and the 28th of May, the President went down on a second visit to the Gulf States, and this is what he told us: The buck stops with me.

I agree with him. The buck stops with the President of the United States, and now we are hearing people scream about a national disaster, which it is, and the President of the United States' job was to lead, and lead means go out and if you have to, roll up your sleeves and suck oil out of the water. You certainly need to get people out there that are taking it seriously enough to follow the instructions of the man on the ground, Governor Jindal, who said it's not a solution, but it sure would help if there's a barrier between us and that oil. And he shouldn't have had to wait for the Federal Government to hem and haw and say, well, we don't know what that sand island you're going to build is going to do to the overall environment of south Louisiana. What does it matter? The oil is going to come in there and wreck it. So let's just dig up the sand. No, we had to wait.

On the 29th of May, British Petroleum did its top-kill plan to try to stop the oil, and it failed. The 2nd of June, the Obama administration finally approved Louisiana's plan to dredge and tells BP to pay $360 million for five new berms. The Justice Department announced a criminal investigation into the explosion and the spill. Let's see, that's all of May and 11 days in April when nothing of significance took place.

June 14, the Senate Democrats write BP calling on the company to set up a $20 billion independent administrative escrow fund to compensate victims of the spill.

June 15, that was yesterday, President Obama makes the Oval Office speech on the oil spill and uses the crisis to push climate change legislation.

And if you heard what our colleagues were talking about in the previous 1 hour before this Congress, they were talking about that we need to have these alternative fuels to replace oil and replace petroleum products, in fact, all carbon products, coal, oil, natural gas. They talked to you about subsidies and other things, but they show you on their chart, and you see this one right here, it is algae, and next year we're going to replace all the energy produced by oil with algae if you will put the resources in algae. No, because it won't.

If you say, look at these wind farms, this is going to replace all the energy we needed to charge our electric cars so we don't even have to run on any kind of petroleum product. And that's all we need is to subsidize that and pour money into it, and it will replace it in the next 2 years. So why am I using the term the next 2 years? Because the President of the United States has put a moratorium on drilling in the gulf, and 17 percent of our consumption on oil and oil products, which includes plastic and other byproducts of oil and natural gas, 17 percent of that a year comes from deepwater drilling in the Gulf of Mexico. So, in 2 years, that's 34 percent of our fuel consumption nationwide that's going to have to be accounted for by somebody in some alternative form if we're going to give up on oil and gas.

Are any of the alternatives that are even close to replacing 34 percent of our energy consumption in this country? No. Will there be? Maybe. But the reality is, we get up in the morning, and we start our cars, and we drive to work. And generally we're burning gasoline or diesel, all of which are products of the petroleum industry. And if you're not going to use gas or diesel, then you better hook a sail up to your car and hope the wind is blowing towards work or you're not going to work.

So the reality is, to just cave in on an industry because of a terrible disaster is like saying, oh, my God, a 747 went down with 600 passengers, shut down the air industry for the next 6 months. But here's the reality: The reality is this 6-month shutdown of the Gulf is actually going to be a 5-year shutdown of the Gulf because once they pull those rigs out of the Gulf, we're not going to get them back it's estimated for 3 to 5 years. So the 6-month moratorium in effect shuts down 17 percent of our energy production in this country for 5 years, potentially for 5 years.

It is time to be realistic and say, what's the big problem right now? And it's the oil spill. Why is it a problem? Because oil is floating around on our pristine Gulf of Mexico. It is moving from State to State. It is eventually going to come ashore in someplace, and why aren't we doing everything we can to bring people over here from anywhere that will help and say we'll help?

I'm going to add one more thing. On June 16, President Obama met with BP executives in the White House--that's today--and he got his $20 billion to go into escrow. But the reality is where have we been, where has our leadership been of this country, the President of the United States and the administration, when this oil was spilling out of that well? Why didn't we answer the phone when the Dutch said 3 days after the spill started, we've got a fleet of skimmers that will come over to help you skim oil? Why didn't we respond? In fact, why didn't we say, world, we help you every chance you ask us to help you, give us a hand; anybody who's got resources that can soak up oil, please bring them to the United States and help us out?

That kind of leadership had to come from the President of the United States, and the waiving of the antique act called the Jones Act had to be done by the President of the United States.

So as we talk about this disaster, let's start by saying what's our real problem? And our real problem is this leaking oil, and we've got to clean it up. Before anything else, we've got to clean it up, but instead, we act to attack the drilling industry and shut down 17 percent of our energy resources a year at a minimum because it's very, very good and popular to attack the oil industry. But in reality, tomorrow morning, when you crank up your engine, say to yourself, what kind of fuel is driving me to work today and where does it come from?

I am very pleased to see that I'm joined by two of my colleagues, and I'm going to call on Mr. Mica from Florida to talk about this very, very disastrous situation and a bill that he has that offers some solutions.


Mr. CARTER. I thank the gentleman for what he has had to say.

I want to tell you that my wife is Dutch, so I took a little offense at the fact that we had an offer of help of a fleet of skimmers from the Dutch. It is my understanding we gave no response. Maybe that's different. I don't know. All I know is that I'm like Will Rogers. All I know is what I read in the newspapers. Now I'm even more upset since I've found out we have American-flagged ships waiting in the harbor ready to help, and nobody has asked for their help. The leadership that runs this country, the executive branch of the government, ought to be ashamed of themselves.


Mr. CARTER. In reclaiming my time, let me say right off that I am very, very proud to be part of a Congress that instantly reacts to a crisis situation. Mr. Oberstar should be commended for that reaction. That is what we are asking for the entire government to do. Let's react positively. Let's work as a team. Let's quit blaming previous administrations. Let's do the job to clean this mess up.

I thank you very much.

My good friend from Texas lives in the heart of All Country USA. Houston, Texas, is, to my way of thinking, the center of the universe for the oil industry, and my good friend Pete Olson is one of the members of our Houston delegation who is very knowledgeable in this area. He has some legislation, and there may be other things that he wishes to talk about, so I yield to my friend Pete Olson, the Member from Sugar Land and all points south, to talk to us about how he feels about what is going on today.


Mr. CARTER. Reclaiming my time for a moment, I asked Trent Frank, who is an experienced offshore driller, as we all know. I said, Trent, what kind of salaries do these guys make? He said, The ordinary laborer--which in my day, at least, we used to call those guys roughnecks or roustabouts--$60 an hour. And the high-tech guys, the guys that can drive a drill bit down 5,000 feet under the water and another multithousands of feet and hit a 12-inch hole where this oil is coming out of, with that kind of skill, they're paid a lot more.

Now the question I would have for the administration, if you take the drilling away and all those people are looking for a job to replace that income, where is the guy who developed his skills through experience at the low-paying job on a well? So maybe he's got a high school education, and he learned his job on the job. Where is he going to find $60 an hour to support his family on? It doesn't exist.


Mr. CARTER. Reclaiming my time, in wrapping this up, there's a lot of things that the Republicans--we get accused of an awful lot of things around here. We're going to ignore those accusations. Mr. Blunt has a bill. The Oil Spill Response and Assistance Act, by Mr. Roy Blunt from Missouri, H.R. 5336, requires the Secretary of Energy to develop and deploy technology for the use in the event of breach or explosion at or at a significant discharge of oil from a deepwater port, offshore facility, or tank vessel, including caps, fireproof booms, remote-operated submersibles, 24-hour response time, double liability limits for oil companies.

Mr. Blunt is addressing the issue. Mr. Schock has an Offshore Safety and Response. We have legislation. Let's do our job. And let's continue. Let's end that moratorium and continue to drill. And be safe.

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