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Public Statements

Final Passage of S. 1813

Floor Speech

Location: Washington, DC


Ms. LANDRIEU. Mr. President, I want to take a minute to thank Senator Boxer and Senator Inhofe and the staffs of both of those excellent Senators who have worked so hard on this bill that is so important to our country. From New York to California, from Alaska to Florida, this bill represents over $110 billion of investments in America. Whether we are talking about two-lane roads, farm-to-market roads, one-lane or two-lane roads, interstate, or rail that is running in our urban areas that are congested, time consuming, and frustrating for our drivers; whether it is for the trucking industry that depends on good, solid, strong highways; the petrochemical industry, the oil and gas industry, or our small businesses, it is important for America's infrastructure to be strengthened, and that is what we did today.

I know the Senate has been criticized over and over again about not being able to function. But today we saw, as our leader said, one of our most conservative Members and one of our most progressive Members bring a bill to this floor and get 74 votes. That is hard work, and that is the way the Senate should work.

I am so proud to have been a small part of this overall bill with Senator Whitehouse, Senator Shelby from Alabama, and many other Senators who joined us in an effort to put on a very important amendment to the gulf coast and to the country in this Transportation bill. That bill, which was adopted as an amendment to the Transportation bill, as you know, Mr. President, is known as the RESTORE Act.

The reason we call it the RESTORE Act is because that is exactly what it will do. It will restore America's energy coast--the gulf coast. We are proud of our energy infrastructure. We are also proud of our fishing industry and our ecotourism industry. We are also proud of our commercial fishing and recreational charter captains who take people from all over the world off the beautiful coast of Florida, Mississippi, Alabama, Louisiana, and Texas with some of the best fishing in the world.

We have fisheries that are alive and vibrant, not overfished, with people in business and restaurants serving this food all over the country. We are so proud to have passed the RESTORE Act, which is going to take not taxpayer money, not money adding to the deficit, but monies from a fine that is going to be levied by the courts very soon--very soon. This fine will be levied against BP because of the single largest environmental disaster in the Nation's history.

BP, an operator of oil and gas wells not just in the gulf but all around the world, drills safely in many places. But, boy, they sure messed up this one. There were 11 men killed, others were injured, and hundreds of millions of gallons of oil were spilled into the Gulf of Mexico. It was a horrible accident. It should not have happened.

No industry is perfect. No operation like this, whether it is going to space or going below sea, whether it is producing sophisticated equipment or is involved in the mining or extraction business has a complete guarantee of safety and perfection. But this was a terrible accident. We wish it never would have happened.

The courts are sorting out whether this company was simply negligent or grossly negligent. We can have our opinions, but it is not something we need to decide. What we did decide, though, is when the court set that penalty, that what is right for the States that were so injured--with marshes inundated with oil, and pelicans, dolphins, and other wildlife and birds that live and breed and count on this environment to be there--is for that money to be redirected back to the gulf coast.

Because of the good work of our Presiding Officer and Senator Baucus--and I want to thank, particularly, Senator Bingaman--we were also able to add--not in the RESTORE Act, not taking money away from the gulf but in a side-by-side--some money to fund the Land and Water Conservation Fund. Now, it is only for 2 years, but there is going to be more money in that fund than has been there for a while, which will also accommodate the environment nationally, and that provides a balance and a synergy.

The gulf coast wants to be fair. Our people have suffered. But we also know the country has been very generous to us through a series of very unfortunate events in the last 6 years: Katrina, Rita, Gustav, and Ike, horrible hurricanes. But every part of the Nation has experienced disaster, whether it was the fires in California or the flooding in the Northeast or the hurricane last season that raked the Northeast. Last season, in fact, we will remember, was the season that had the largest number of disasters. There were 12 that cost over $1 billion. That has not happened before.

So lots of parts of the country have suffered. But the gulf coast has suffered in a special way, unfortunately, with a series of events, hurricanes, and oilspills. So we are grateful.

We tried to make this bill appropriate, leaving 20 percent of the general fund, which will secure doubling the amount of money in that liability trust fund. That is a benefit to the Nation. We put in some money for land and water. That will benefit the Nation, and there is some money to establish an oceans trust.

I ask for another 1 minute.


Ms. LANDRIEU. That will benefit the Nation. But the bulk of that penalty money will go to the gulf coast, and it will not be wasted, I promise. The bill has tight safeguards and guidelines about the way that money will be spent restoring our marshes, rebuilding our coastline; we have lost the size of the State of Rhode Island.

I wish to thank so much the groups. There were over 200 organizations, from Ducks Unlimited to the National Environmental Defense Fund, to Nature Conservancy, to many of the Chambers of Commerce, locally and nationally, that supported the RESTORE Act. Without their help, this never would have happened because we don't get a vote as we did on the Senate floor without a lot of help. We got I believe it was maybe 76 votes on the floor of the Senate. It is hard to get a resolution on mom and apple pie to get 76 votes today. So I am very humbled to say it was the work of many people. I was proud to lead this effort with Senator Shelby, my partner from Alabama.

But my final comment is, work needs to be done. That is my final point. The amendment is in the Transportation bill. The Transportation bill has now left the building, left the Senate. It is now on its way over to the House. I hope the House will take this bill--and I know they have their own opinions about how things should be. But it is important to get this $110 billion of investments out for America. We need to keep this recovery going. People are looking for jobs, well-paying jobs. Small businesses get these contracts as well as large businesses for our rail, our water, our transportation.

I hope the RESTORE Act, because it is safely tucked in this bill, will generate some additional votes on the House side. I hope my colleagues from the gulf coast in the House, Republicans and Democrats, will say: Overall, it may not be the House's Transportation bill, but you know what. It is a good bill.

Twenty-two Republicans over here voted for this bill. As Senator Inhofe said, there is streamlining, there are new approaches, there areFINAL PASSAGE OF S. better approaches, less waste, less fraud, less abuse in this bill. So there are some good things they can vote on.

I thank, again, in conclusion, Senator Inhofe and Senator Boxer and particularly Senator Baucus for his help in helping us, at the very end, to put what we needed to get together to pass this RESTORE Act. I will continue to report to all how the courts are going to rule, how much this fine is going to be, and how that money is spent in the next couple years to help save a very important part of our Nation and a part of the Nation that contributes substantially to the GDP of our Nation.

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