Commerce Committee Approves SHORE Act

July 27, 2010

USCG Deep Horizon ResponseWASHINGTON, D.C.—Senator John D. (Jay) Rockefeller IV, Chairman of the U.S. Senate Committee on Commerce, Science, and Transportation, issued the following statement today after the committee approved S. 3597, the Securing Health for Ocean Resources and Environment Act (SHORE Act).

“98 days have passed since the Deepwater Horizon exploded and sank into the sea setting off the worst oil spill disaster in history. This oil spill has upended the lives of millions of Americans in the Gulf Coast region, halted seafood and tourism industries, and damaged the long-term health of coastal ecosystems. 

“The SHORE Act 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 Gulf Coast region has suffered an incredible loss – and deserves our commitment and the best resources possible to prevent a disaster like this from ever happening again.”

The SHORE Act is the result of Chairman Rockefeller and the Commerce Committee’s ongoing work related to the Gulf oil spill and has been incorporated into Majority Leader Reid’s recently announced oil spill response and clean energy jobs plan.

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 Committee members took a hard look at workplace safety on both land and at sea, and pressed for the need to update outdated laws that treat the families of employees killed at sea differently from those killed on land.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.