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Ms. LEE of California. Yes, Congressman Garamendi, we did experience a devastating oil spill 3 years ago, and that's why many of us know from personal experience and from a history of trying to find a way to help our country become energy independent and end this addiction of oil. We have worked on this issue for many, many years. So I am very pleased that you've taken the lead in sponsoring a bill, which I am proud to cosponsor, H.R. 5213, which would really create a ban, mind you. We need more than moratorium. We need a ban on offshore oil and natural gas drilling from platforms in Federal waters, particularly near California, Oregon, and Washington, which your bill addresses. I think what we have seen in the Gulf really explains why we're doing this, first of all, on the West Coast, but this needs to be done nationwide.
The fact is, offshore drilling poses too great a risk to our coastal communities, economies, and our ecosytem. This has been made painfully clear by the recent British Petroleum oil spill disaster in the Gulf of Mexico. Every day, we have seen more and more damage to our Gulf Coast, with really no end in sight. Over the course of weeks, estimates of the damages have risen from, I think it was $14 billion, now to $34 billion. Who knows how many billion this is going to end up being. As millions of gallons of oil flow into the Gulf each day, I can't imagine what this will be like in a few months, let alone in the years to come.
Over 50,000 claims have been filed by small businesses for economic losses and thousands more workers have lost their jobs. Every day, new fishing areas are closed off, new coastline is contaminated, and more communities are affected. BP must be held accountable, and they must pay for this tragedy. The fragile ecosytem, which once sustained over 400 species of wildlife, are so ravaged that experts cannot even begin to assess the damage. However, they all agree on this--that the long-term health and environmental effects of this spill will plague the region for generations to come. We cannot continue to put our economy and our environment and the health of our children on the line. We must stop the drilling.
Just a few decades ago, California experienced a similar spill. That oil spill was so toxic and ruinous that it led to the creation of the Environmental Protection Agency and the declaration of the first Earth day by the Santa Barbara City Council. We understand just how devastating these chemicals can be both to our Nation's ecosytem and to our economy. It's time we start making decisions for our future. This is a terrible, tragic wake-up call. We cannot continue to endanger our natural treasures or economic prosperity for a paltry reward in the form of a decade or so of oil and natural gas protection.
The Deepwater Horizon explosion was really not an isolated incident. According to the Minerals Management Service, there were 38 blowouts, mind you--38--in the Gulf of Mexico between 1992 and 2006. Just yesterday, the CEO of ExxonMobil admitted that when spills happen, we are, ``not well-equipped to handle them.'' I don't know what they do with the billions of profits that they make. But if we aren't prepared, then we really shouldn't be drilling.
Perhaps the greatest tragedy behind the BP oil spill disaster is that it really did not need to happen. Today, we have the power to learn from history and to chart a new path. In order to safeguard the natural beauty, wildlife, and ocean-based economies of California, Oregon, and Washington, Congressman Garamendi's bill really does set the standard. We've got to move forward with a permanent moratorium or permanent ban on offshore oil drilling in Federal waters off the West Coast.
The environmental disaster that we're witnessing in the Gulf is a symptom of a much larger problem; that is our perilous dependency, as I said earlier, on, really, dirty fossil fuels. We must work to end that addiction today or really risk sacrificing our environment for the future. The best and most responsible way forward is one in which our coastlines remain free of offshore oil and gas drilling and our demand for fossil fuels is diminished through the use of renewable energy sources and the deployment of energy-efficient technologies.
It's time to take a stand, and it's time to declare that enough is enough. We must be committed to a cleaner, greener future--and that future starts with putting and end to offshore drilling. I think the President is right on point. I think we need to move forward and support Congressman Garamendi's bill. And we need to really recognize that the horrific tragedy that we're seeing today is really a sign of what could happen tomorrow, and use this as a defining moment to regroup and to become clearer about our future in terms of our energy independence.
Thank you, again, Congressman Garamendi, for your leadership.
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