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Public Statements

Insular Areas Act of 2011

Floor Speech

By:
Date:
Location: Washington, DC

BREAK IN TRANSCRIPT

Mr. FALEOMAVAEGA. I want to express my deepest appreciation to the
gentlelady from Florida, the chairwoman of the House Committee on Foreign Affairs, and certainly my colleague, the senior ranking member, Mr. Berman of California.

I would also like to express my most sincere appreciation to our Speaker of the House, John Boehner; our majority leader, Eric Cantor; our Democratic leader, Nancy Pelosi; our Democratic Whip, Steny Hoyer; the chairman of our Foreign Affairs Committee, Ileana Ros-Lehtinen, and Ranking Member Howard Berman of California; Chairman John Kline and Ranking Member George Miller of the Committee on Education and the Workforce; Chairman Lamar Smith and Ranking Member John Conyers of the Committee on the Judiciary; Chairman Doc Hastings and Ranking Member Ed Markey of the Committee on Natural Resources; and certainly Senator Jeff Bingaman and Senator Lisa Murkowski, who respectively served as chairman and ranking member of the Senate Committee on Energy and Natural Resources for all that they have done on behalf of the insular areas. I cannot thank my colleagues enough for standing with me because I know the passage of this bill is only possible today due to their support.

I also thank the committee staff leadership for their working in close association with my office on the provision which will benefit the Associated States of Micronesia, the Republic of the Marshall Islands, and the Territory of American Samoa.

Mr. Speaker, as my chairman had alluded to earlier about this section, it's very simple.

This atoll, Runit Atoll, is located in Enewetak. For the benefit and information of my colleagues, the Enewetak Atoll is located in the Marshall Islands. This is where we exploded 43 of our nuclear bombs out of the 67 nuclear bombs that we exploded during our testing program from 1943 to 1962; and in the process, this is where we exploded our mini-hydrogen bomb, which was called a Mike shot, which was only about 700 times more powerful than the nuclear bomb that we exploded in Nagasaki and Hiroshima.

Only about a couple of hundred of miles away is also the atoll called Bikini Atoll, and in 1954 we exploded the most powerful and the first hydrogen bomb that was ever exploded on this planet. It was known as the Bravo shot, and it was 1,300 times more powerful than the bombs that we dropped in Nagasaki and Hiroshima.

Just to give my colleagues a sense of understanding and appreciation, what we did in this specific atoll, Enewetak, we had to collect all the debris, all the nuclear waste materials as a result of the 43 bombs that we exploded in this atoll for purposes of preventing nuclear contamination from getting into the water and the ocean squall of that. Well, it started to leak, and there are some very serious problems of nuclear contamination seepage coming out of what we've done in burying, supposedly, the nuclear waste materials on this atoll called Runit Atoll.

This provision is just simply the Congress directs the Secretary of Energy to do a monitoring program and to see what is happening after some 40 years that we did all this tremendous damage, not only to property, but to the lives of these people in the Marshall Islands. This is what this provision provides. It very simply authorizes the Secretary of Energy to go over there and find out what's going on and monitor the underground water so that these people can survive properly.

In the process, and what's about good about this bill, Mr. Speaker, is it doesn't require any offsets. We don't have to worry about any financials. It will be funded by the Technical Assistance Program that is now provided by the Office of Insular Affairs.

The second provision in this bill, Mr. Speaker, it just simply amends the Compact of Free Association to authorize our judges to go there and serve temporarily in the courts of the Associated States of Micronesia. That's all it does. It doesn't require any more expense than it is but just to simply authorize them.

And the third provision that I want to share with my colleagues is simply to delay the increase of the minimum wage in my little Territory of American Samoa for the next 3 years. That's all that this bill provides.

As I said, Mr. Speaker, this is one of the most unusual bills. It has the support of four committee chairmen and senior ranking members. Now, you talk about bipartisanship: I don't know of any other bill that I've ever heard or known and the fact that we have something we can all work toward in solving some of the serious problems affecting the lives of our fellow Americans. And that's all I'm asking for.

Mr. Speaker, I yield back the balance of my time.

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