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Hearing of the Senate Energy and Natural Resources Committee - Oil Spill Prevention and Mitigation Improvement Act


Location: Washington, DC

Today, U.S. Senator Scott Brown (R-MA) delivered the following testimony before the Senate Energy and Natural Resources Committee on his Oil Spill Prevention and Mitigation Improvement Act. The following testimony was prepared for delivery:

"Thank you Chairman Bingaman and Ranking Member Murkowski for giving me the opportunity to be here today and testify in support of the Oil Spill Prevention and Mitigation Improvement Act of 2010, which I have introduced with Senator Dianne Feinstein.

Mr. Chairman, for well over two months now our country has watched millions of gallons of oil gush relentlessly into the Gulf of Mexico after the collapse of BP's Deepwater Horizon oil rig. Oil continues to wash up on beaches along the Gulf Coast, covering wildlife, destroying ecosystems, and further hurting the region's fragile, recovering economy. Efforts to stop the leak continue to hit significant roadblocks and oil keeps spewing from the ocean floor. Just yesterday, we learned that an undersea robot bumped a venting system, which forced BP to remove the cap that had been containing some of the oil. This morning we learned that the cap has been put back on but this incident serves as another reminder of how we are not yet in control of the leak. In total there is universal agreement that this is the worst manmade environmental disaster in our nation's history.

Even more troubling are the startling details emerging that this all could have been avoided. BP was astonishingly unprepared and ill-equipped to deal with their leak. Worse yet, the federal government has even acknowledged that oil companies have not been held to the highest standards when it comes to having a fail-safe response plan to deal with a spill in deepwater. While everyone understands that accidents can happen, Americans are rightly furious that there was neither a viable nor urgent response plan in place to stop the leak or to begin mitigating the damage. There should have been one on day one.

To address this glaring error, our legislation would require that oil companies have a viable, peer-reviewed response plan, to respond to a significant leak. Objective outside scientists and experts should be vetting these plans. The fact that the Mineral Management Service approved the existing "boiler plate" plans written by BP and the other major oil companies - full of references to dead scientists and non-existent Gulf walruses -- rightfully undermines our faith in objective standards and proper regulation. The Oil Spill Prevention and Mitigation Improvement Act would require BP and other oil companies to do due diligence and provide a thorough, feasible, and peer-reviewed response plan before any new offshore drilling lease can be issued. Specifically, these response plans, which must also be certified by the Secretary of the Interior, will have to prescribe the means and timeline for containment of a spill and be specifically tailored to the depth and location where drilling will occur. This is an essential step to preventing another disaster like this in the future.

What I believe has frustrated the American people the most has been the lack of a clear, cohesive response effort that utilizes all available resources. We should have the best and most brilliant scientists and engineers in the world working to stop the spill and figure out how to remedy the impacts of this extreme environmental disaster. To address this need, our legislation would immediately re-direct existing funds within the Department of Energy's deepwater program to build a team, comprised of private sector engineers and experts from the National Academy of Sciences, to stop the leak and mitigate the damage to wildlife, the environment, and businesses in the region and to recommend best practices going forward.

Finally, we must find out what went wrong. There has been much confusion about what existing authorities and resources the Obama administration can and should be using to stop the spill and protect the environment in the Gulf of Mexico. Our bill would require the Government Accountability Office to investigate whether or not the administration has used all existing authorities and resources to respond to the Deepwater Horizon spill, and to make recommendations if new authorities are needed.

Mr. Chairman, estimates show that at least 80 million gallons of crude oil have leaked into our waters so far, and the numbers keep climbing. We must do something to stop this. And equally important, we must put viable prevention and response measures in place to react quickly and decisively should the unthinkable happen again, and we are faced with another oil spill of this magnitude in the future. The Oil Spill Prevention and Mitigation Improvement Act is a common-sense approach to do just that, and I am hopeful the Committee will take a close look at it.

Thank you, again, for inviting me here today to testify on our legislation. I applaud your efforts to take a serious look at this issue and try to work constructively to put forward legislative proposals to address the Deepwater Horizon disaster."

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