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Public Statements

Jobs and Energy Permitting Act of 2011

Floor Speech

Location: Washington, DC


Ms. SPEIER. Madam Chair, I rise today in support of my amendment which strikes section 2 of the bill.

Section 2 of this bill would amend the Clean Air Act to force emissions from any offshore source to be measured only at the corresponding onshore location. Yes, you heard me correctly, the bill demonstrates willful ignorance of the fact that pollution is also harmful over water, not just on land. This dirty air loophole is so big you can float a Deepwater Horizon-sized oil rig through it.

I know our philosophies differ here, but the fact is that even if we produced every drop of recoverable oil offshore today, it would only last us for 3 years at our current consumption rate. Then we would be right back where we started from without having reduced our demand on oil, except we would be about billions of dollars poorer after subsidizing the oil companies to turn the rest of offshore USA into the Gulf of Mexico. That does not sound like a deficit-cutting, jobs-creating proposal to me.

H.R. 2021 purports to simply reduce the amount of time it takes to get a permit to drill, but it also gives Big Oil a free pass on having to properly account for the toxic pollution it releases on the Outer Continental Shelf. It moves the geographic point where emissions are measured from offshore, near the drilling location, to an onshore point many miles away.

This change would clearly weaken public health protection for oil workers--are we interested in them?--fishermen--are we interested in them?--recreational boaters, not to mention all those who do business or make a living in our coastal communities. Apparently, it's the old out-of-sight, out-of-mind approach; what you can't see won't hurt you. After the BP oil spill just last year, such an approach should be dismissed as reckless.

One year ago today, oil was gushing into the gulf and toxic emissions were streaming into the air. But if this bill passes, the same level of Clean Air Act protections that gulf oil workers, fishermen, and coastal residents relied on to fight BP for damages would no longer apply in the gulf or anywhere else.

Let's be clear. In this bill, the rules don't apply to Shell. Shell wants to drill in the Arctic Ocean off Alaska without monitoring at the source. I get it. We all get it. But that isn't prudent; that isn't fair; that isn't safe.

Here are the facts this bill would cover up:

Shell's plans to drill for oil in the Arctic would dump as much particulate matter into the air as over 825,000 cars traveling 12,000 miles; as much CO

2 as the annual household emissions of 21,000 people; and more than 1,000 times of NO

2, a noxious pollutant that causes respiratory illness. This is according to Shell's own permit applications. The pollution may be emitted from rigs or vessels far offshore, but the effects are felt miles away by native populations with vibrant fishing communities by the coast.

If Shell Oil or any other company wants to do business on the Outer Continental Shelf, they need to demonstrate that they can meet standards set forth in the Clean Air Act. I mean, that's just fundamental. Instead, they have succeeded in getting Republicans here in Congress to waste taxpayers' time by pushing bills granting them exemptions from the rules at the expense of public health and the environment. In fact, by creating this loophole, H.R. 2021 would actually further complicate the permitting process and increase expenses for all parties involved.

The California Air Resources Board, which oversees oil and gas permitting in my State, testified on this very point in committee. This bill, they said, will require more time and expense to properly model onshore emission impacts. Districts may incur added cost and delay to deploy an adequate onshore monitoring network and obtain data sufficient to establish a baseline--costs that will be passed on to the permit applicants.

As a ``jobs and energy permitting'' measure, therefore, this bill would fail on both counts while doing real harm to air quality in California and many of the 20 other coastal States. It will certainly achieve the goal of increasing oil company profits at the cost of everyone else.

I respectfully urge my colleagues to vote for this amendment and oppose this dirty air loophole.

Madam Chair, I yield back the balance of my time.


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