Chairman Rockefeller Introduces Coastal Oil Spill Prevention, Preparedness, and Response Legislation

Announces Executive Session to Markup SHORE Act

July 16, 2010

Gulf Oil Spill 3WASHINGTON, D.C.—Senator John D. (Jay) Rockefeller IV, Chairman of the U.S. Senate Committee on Commerce, Science, & Transportation has introduced legislation, the Securing Health for Ocean Resources and Environment (SHORE) Act, to bolster the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA)’s and the U.S. Coast Guard’s ability to prevent and respond to oil spills, and to help the agencies and coastal states protect fragile coastal ecosystems. The legislation comes on the heels of the worst oil spill in U.S. history. The bill will improve federal and state prevention, response, and restoration efforts.

“This important bill will ensure that our nation’s federal agencies with expertise on ocean science and health have greater input in coordinating oil spill response and prevention plans,” Chairman Rockefeller said.

“The Gulf oil spill has painfully upended the lives and livelihoods of too many Americans. I am deeply committed to finding solutions to prevent a disaster like this from ever happening again.”

The legislation we will markup next week will greatly improve the ability of NOAA, the Coast Guard, and the coastal States to prevent and respond to oil spills by giving them the resources, authority, and expertise they need.”

The SHORE Act is the result of Chairman Rockefeller and the Commerce Committee’s ongoing work related to the Gulf oil spill. The Committee will markup this bill on Thursday, July 22 at a 2:30 p.m., at a full committee Executive Session.

In May, Chairman Rockefeller heard from the top executives of Transocean and British Petroleum in a Committee hearing. Rockefeller and Committee Members questioned the executives on the causes of the spill. At that same hearing, then U.S. Coast Guard Commandant Thad Allen and NOAA Administrator Jane Lubchenco expanded upon the government’s response to the oil spill and their continued efforts to clean-up and contain the mess. Additional information from the Commerce Committee hearing can be found here.

At a Commerce Committee hearing in June, Chairman Rockefeller heard from the families of two oil rig workers who lost their lives in the Deepwater Horizon tragedy. Committee members took a hard look at workplace safety on both land and sea, and pressed for the need to update outdated laws that treat the families of employees killed at sea differently from those killed on land. Additional information on the June Commerce Committee hearing can be found here.

Key provisions of the SHORE Act would:

  • Improve NOAA’s spill response, containment and prevention capacity;
  • Better define coordination between Federal and State response activities;
  • Better define coordination between NOAA, the Coast Guard, and the Department of Interior;
  • Clarify existing authority for NOAA to receive funds from the Oil Spill Liability Trust Fund (OSLTF) for its mandates under the Oil Pollution Act (OPA);
  • Double the amount the Coast Guard may receive from the OSLTF each year, with a percentage dedicated toward oil spill research and development;
  • Invest in a damage assessment and restoration revolving fund;
  • Mandate improvements in the frequency and comprehensiveness of Coast Guard safety inspections and certification requirements;
  • Require prompt posting by Coast Guard Unified Command of oil spill Incident Action Plans on a publicly accessible website;
  • Provide new authority to promote prompt decision making with regard to fisheries re-openings and closures in a coastal oil spill response;
  • Strengthen coastal state oil spill planning and response;
  • Direct NOAA to develop a long term monitoring and research program for the Gulf of Mexico; and
  • Authorize the Coast Guard to assess and take action to reduce the risk and improve capacity to respond to a maritime disaster in the Beaufort and Chukchi Sea, as well as authorize NOAA to direct research to improve their ability to conduct oil spill prevention, response, and recovery in Arctic Waters.
A section-by-section and full text of the SHORE Act can be found here.

Senate Commerce Committee Jurisdiction

The Senate Committee on Commerce, Science, and Transportation has jurisdiction over the U.S. Coast Guard (USCG) and the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA). The USCG has primary response authority over oil spills occurring in coastal waters, and also investigates maritime industry deaths, injuries, property loss, and environmental damage to determine the causes of accidents. NOAA provides scientific analysis and consultation during oil spill response activities. Assistance can include oil spill tracking, predictive modeling to forecast where a spill may go, cleanup alternatives, and knowledge of at-risk marine resources—living and otherwise. Both the Coast Guard and NOAA play critically important roles in the area of oil spill response, prevention, and preparedness.