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Public Statements

Consolidated Land, Energy, and Aquatic Resources Act Of 2010

Floor Speech

Location: Washington, DC


Mr. OBERSTAR. Mr. Chairman, I yield myself 4 minutes.

I rise in strong support of the amendment in the nature of a substitute to the Consolidated Land, Energy, and Aquatic Resources Act of 2010, and I want to congratulate my good friend and Transportation Committee colleague, Mr. Rahall, the chairman of the Natural Resources Committee, for the splendid work that his committee has done, for the bill that he, personally, has championed, and the hours of work put into this legislation in crafting a true comprehensive response to the oil spill in the gulf, the causes of that failure and the cleanup that is necessary.

I was going to be rather brief; but after listening to the gentleman from Washington, I didn't recognize the bill that is before us. I have never considered cleanup responsibilities to be a tax. I don't know where that confection has been created, but it is certainly not in my vocabulary.

The blowout from the mobile offshore drilling unit, the Deepwater Horizon, killed 11 people on the crew--at least none of them have been found. They are all presumed dead. There were 116 people injured in one way or another. Millions of gallons, millions of barrels of oil spilling from a source that is unknowable, a resource whose volume is unknown, and it continued relentlessly until just a few days ago. Our committee held three hearings to investigate the causes of this disaster, and I particularly appreciate the splendid work done by subcommittee Chairman Elijah Cummings, the chair of the Coast Guard and Maritime Subcommittee.

While the causes of that disaster are still under investigation, there are some elements that are clearly known and that we must and can deal with and that we do deal with in this legislation that emerge also from our hearings. We received extensive testimony on how the Deepwater Horizon was built in South Korea, registered in that great maritime nation of the Republican of the Marshall Islands, and the registry is held by a foreign entity maintained in Reston, Virginia. No accountability, no oversight, no responsibility, and no rigorous laws of the country of registry to govern the MODU, the drilling unit. And the vessel itself, because it was registered in the Marshall Islands, was not subject to the rigorous safety inspection standards of the U.S. Coast Guard that a U.S. flagged vessel would be subject to.

We also learned that shortcuts were taken in the development, approval, and implementation of the oil spill response plans for the Deepwater Horizon drilling operation. Those response plans were totally inadequate to address the worst-case scenario. We also learned that in May of 2008, the Minerals Management Service of the previous administration exempted BP from filing an oil spill response plan--exempted because they're a big worldwide multibillion-dollar corporation with experience in deep-water drilling. In their permit, they filed a 52-page document that said: In the unlikely event of a surface or subsurface spill, we are capable of handling with existing industry technology up to 175,000 barrels a day. They couldn't handle what came out of that, and they couldn't measure what came out of that oil reservoir. That gulf has been seriously injured and damaged for generations because of that failure.

It also demonstrated the inadequacy of the limits of liability, including financial responsibility for the responsible parties, inadequate, insufficient to address a worst-case scenario for a release of oil in an offshore operation. The expected cost will be in the tens of billions. And even though BP agreed to set aside $20 billion in an agreement with President Obama as an escrow to cover potential costs, the $75 million cap that exists in current law is grossly, grossly inadequate and must be repealed; and it is repealed in our version of this legislation.

We also investigated the unprecedented use of 1.5 million gallons of chemical dispersants. Our witnesses called into question the potential short-term and long-term impacts that increased use of these dispersants, such as COREXIT, would have on the waters, the water column and the aquatic creatures and the plants in the Gulf of Mexico. Dr. Sylvia Earle, a world-renowned ocean biologist who spent 50 years of her career studying and evaluating and understanding the Gulf of Mexico, said, There never was any testing of COREXIT on underwater creatures in the water column, that COREXIT itself was determined to be toxic to the human respiratory system. It had adverse effects on the kidney and lungs and heart, and yet it was used extensively, well over a million gallons of it, as a dispersant in the response to the oil spill. We will have the burden of decades to understand what the effect of this chemical is on the water column and on the creatures whose livelihood depends on this water.

Our bill has several provisions to address liability, financial responsibility, improvements in safety, increased oversight of oil spill responses, improvements in environmental protection. We repeal or adjust existing liability limitations for offshore facilities to ensure that the responsible party or parties will be responsible for 100 percent of the cleanup costs and damage to third parties and will extend the provisions of OPA '90, the Open Pollution Act of 1990, which has very rigorous provisions in it, to protect even the migratory waterfowl which come from northern regions, from Canada and from northern Minnesota and other northern-tier States and winter in the gulf.

Our State bird, the loon, winters in those marshes that are now oil-infested. And I want to be sure that BP pays for every oiled loon, which are the joy of Minnesotans in the summer as we recreate outside and enjoy our great outdoors.

I reserve the balance of my time.


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