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Safeguards Act Reintroduced - Hon. C.W. Bill Young

Floor Speech

Location: Washington, DC

Mr. YOUNG of Florida. Mr. Speaker, I rise today to reintroduce the SAFEGUARDS Act, legislation I have introduced for the past three Congressional sessions that is intended to address some of the issues surrounding the 2010 Deepwater Horizon disaster and the subsequent federal response effort. Saturday marked the three-year anniversary of this catastrophic oil spill and the people of the Gulf are still waiting for the Congress to address the breakdowns in safety, oversight and response that were exposed during the spill. I have emphasized repeatedly that we owe it to those who perished in the explosion, as well those whose lives and businesses were impacted in the months that followed, to address the deficiencies in current federal policy.

I am thankful that last year the Congress was able to pass the RESTORE Act that directs a large portion of the fines resulting from the Deepwater Horizon spill to the restoration of the Gulf region. While we do not know the full amount that will be available in this fund, I am certain that it will have a positive impact on future restoration, revitalization and research efforts in the Gulf, including in my state of Florida.

However, I remain greatly concerned with continuing our work to ensure an oil spill of this magnitude is prevented from ever happening again. Fortunately, the beautiful beaches in my district were spared a direct oil impact during the spill but make no mistake, our cities and local industries were impacted, including tourism and our fisheries, causing great hardship for many in my area. My constituents fear the impact that a future spill could have on their homes, businesses and our local environment.

While federal agencies have worked through the regulatory process to address some of deficiencies highlighted by the spill, most notably the Department of Interior's replacement of the Minerals Management Service with the Bureau of Ocean Energy Management, Regulation, and Enforcement, Congress has still not enacted comprehensive legislation. The members of the National Commission on the BP Deepwater Horizon Oil Spill and Offshore Drilling (Oil Spill Commission), which issued their final report in January 2011, recently gave Congress a D-plus for failing to implement the recommendations made in the report.

Multiple retrospective reviews of the oil spill and the response efforts have provided us with valuable information about what should be included in comprehensive legislation. This includes the report by the Oil Spill Commission, the Joint Investigation of Bureau of Ocean Energy Management, Regulation, and Enforcement and U.S. Coast Guard, and the BP Deepwater Horizon Oil Spill: Incident Specific Preparedness Review.

As I stated last Congress, I was not surprised that many of the changes I recommended in the SAFEGUARDS Act were included in the Oil Spill Commission report, as my measure was developed following a series of meetings and regular phone calls with the on-the-ground incident commanders, local research teams and community emergency response personnel. It is my hope that the Congress will act on the solutions put forth in this measure and include it in a wider legislative response to ensure that we impose rigorous safety standards on any off-shore platforms, while also establishing a fully thought out plan to respond to future disasters.

We must stop waiting and act to address the systematic breakdowns that led to the BP Deepwater Horizon catastrophe. The SAFEGUARDS Act presents common sense solutions to help prevent a disaster of this magnitude from ever happening again, and improves the federal response in the event it ever does. Mr. Speaker, I ask my colleagues to support this measure. We owe it to the American people and the entire Gulf Coast to pass oil spill response legislation during this session.

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