Chairman Rockefeller Remarks on Turning Ideas into Action: Ensuring Effective Clean Up and Restoration in the Gulf

July 21, 2010

Chairman RockefellerWASHINGTON, D.C.—Good morning. I want to thank our witnesses for joining us today. You are at the forefront of developing systems to prevent and respond to oil spills, and we thank you for offering your ideas today. The Gulf oil spill has been a terrible disaster, painfully upending the lives and livelihoods of millions of Americans. I want all of us to do all that we can to make sure something like this never happens again. 

To say that the Deepwater Horizon highlighted the need for better oversight and accountability of oil and gas permitting decisions is an understatement. To put it simply, but in no uncertain terms: the challenges we face are great and there is much work to do. 

First and foremost, we need to use the best science, and rely on the input of agencies with the relevant expertise, to be part of the decision-making process. The National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) is our premier oceans science agency. The U.S. Coast Guard is the lead agency in charge of responding to offshore oil spills once they occur. These two agencies simply must be at the table when the Department of Interior (DOI) is deciding whether or not to allow drilling in the ocean.

I’ve recently introduced a bill, the Securing Health for Ocean Resources and Environment, or SHORE Act, to require greater consultation between the Department of Interior, NOAA and the Coast Guard in permitting decisions. My bill would require DOI to respond, in writing, to any concerns these agencies have before they finalize a permitting decision. 

It’s also become clear that Coast Guard and NOAA need more resources, and more support, to do all that’s asked of them. My bill would 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.

Specifically, my bill will:

  • Increase the Coast Guard’s funding for research, development, and evaluation of oil spill response and removal technologies.
  • Improve the Coast Guard’s ability to effectively respond to the oil spill threats by revamping integral spill response tools, action plans and interagency coordination efforts.

After months of bad news about oil spewing and spilling into the sea, and tar balls washing ashore, we have a hopeful note. It appears BP has capped the well. While everyone is monitoring the situation closely, we all hope and pray that the cap placed over the well continues to hold.

But I don’t want to sugar coat the situation: for the families of the Deepwater Horizon victims, and for the coastal communities along the Gulf, the devastation is far from over, and the national recovery will take generations. Federal and state governments must come together with the Gulf communities, and rely on solid, credible scientific information to support the decisions guiding recovery efforts.

Our witnesses are going to talk about the science, and why it’s so critical. They are going to talk about how knowledge can help us clean up the Gulf, keep safe Gulf seafood on our plates, and keep fishermen at work. And they will talk about how science can help prevent a terrible tragedy like this from ever happening again.

So with that, I want to thank our witnesses again for being here to share their ideas. I look forward to hearing from them.