During the Executive Session, Committee members will consider the following legislation*:
- S. 3490, the Spectrum Relocation and Improvement Act of 2010
- S. 3614, Oil Spill Response Act
- S. 3600, the Fairness in Admiralty and Maritime Law Act
- S. 3597, the Securing Health for Ocean Resources and Environment (SHORE) Act
- S. 3605, the America COMPETES Reauthorization Act of 2010
*List of items under consideration subject to changes prior to scheduled executive session.
Chairman John D. (Jay) Rockefeller IVU.S. Senate Committee on Commerce, Science, and Transportation
WASHINGTON, D.C.—Good afternoon. Thank you all for being here. We have a full schedule today with some very significant bills. I know members wish to speak on various bills, and every member wishing to do so will have an opportunity.
Before I summarize the bills on today’s markup, I wanted to make a small note that we will not be marking up S. 3600, the Fairness in Admiralty and Maritime Law Act today. As my colleagues and many of you here know very well, I strongly support updating the antiquated maritime laws to hold companies accountable so that workers and families get the protection they deserve. My bill will correct the inequities in current law to make sure victims are cared for and treated fairly. Several of my colleagues have raised a few additional concerns, and I want to do all I can to hear those concerns and sort through them in the coming days so we can have the bill ready.
Today, I commit again to the families of the Deepwater Horizon incident, including those who are in the audience today; I will continue to fight to pass my legislation and do all I can do make this right for you and for the other families who suffered the same loss of a loved one. Thank you to everyone for your continued hard work and passion for these enormously important issues.
Now, to get back to the bills on today’s agenda. We have two bills that address the Gulf oil spill.
93 days have passed since the Deepwater Horizon exploded and sank into the sea. The tragic explosion claimed the lives of 11 workers, and injured 17. The resulting oil spill has spewed an enormous amount of oil into the Gulf, and upended the lives of millions of Americans. I am committed to preventing a disaster like this from ever happening again – and that starts with better oversight and accountability of oil and gas permitting decisions.
My bill, the Securing Health for Ocean Resources and Environment, or SHORE Act (S. 3597) will make sure NOAA and the Coast Guard are at the table when permitting decisions are made; require the Department of Interior to respond to any concerns these agencies have before finalizing a permitting decision; and it will give the Coast Guard, NOAA, and coastal states the resources and authority they need to prevent and respond to oil spills.
Senator Hutchison’s bill, the Oil Spill Response and Mitigation Act of 2010 (S. 3614), will also give the Coast Guard more resources to prevent and respond to spills. I know Senator Hutchison would like to speak further about her bill, and I look forward to hearing from her.
The next bill on the agenda is S. 3490, the Spectrum Relocation Improvement Act of 2010. We all know that radio spectrum is a scarce but valuable resource. That is why we need to make sure that when federal users vacate frequencies that they do so in a transparent and open way. The Spectrum Relocation Improvement Act does just that. I want to thank Senator Warner and Senator Wicker for their work on this legislation. We may need to make some adjustments to the bill as it moves from the Committee to the floor, but I’m happy to continue to work with you on that, because this is good spectrum policy.
Finally, we will consider S. 3605, the America COMPETES Reauthorization Act of 2010. The original America COMPETES Act was a response to a National Academies report showing that America was in danger of losing its edge in science, technology, research and development. This bill continues key investments in research and development and STEM education – drivers of America’s economy and keys to our competitiveness in the global marketplace. A strong high-tech workforce is fundamental to addressing the challenges of the 21st century—from developing clean sources of energy to discovering cures for diseases. The small investments we make now will pay incredible dividends down the road.
So with that, I will turn to Senator Hutchison. Thank you all very much.
Senator Kay Bailey HutchisonU.S. Senate Committee on Commerce, Science, and Transportation
STATEMENT OF SENATOR KAY BAILEY HUTCHISON
COMMITTEE ON COMMERCE, SCIENCE, AND TRANSPORTATION
Executive Session #19
July 22, 2010
Thank you, Mr. Chairman. Today we are considering several important pieces of legislation, including the Spectrum Relocation and Improvement Act, the America COMPETES Reauthorization Act, the Securing Health for Ocean Resources and Environment Act, and the Oil Spill Response Act. I commend the Chairman for his leadership on these bills.
The Oil Spill Response Act
I am very pleased that we are able to consider legislation I have introduced, along with Senator LeMieux, S. 3614, the Oils Spill Response Act. As my colleagues know, the Coast Guard is the nation’s first responder for oil spills in the marine environment. It is our responsibility to ensure that we provide the Coast Guard with the tools it needs to best respond to, and prepare for, offshore oil spills and other hazardous materials releases in the waters of our shores And that is the purpose of this legislation.
Specifically, our legislation would create a Maritime Center of Excellence for Spill Response to train first responders on the latest technologies and techniques to combat oil spills. It would also enhance the National Strike Force and give the Coast Guard the ability to rapidly mobilize to respond to oil spills and hazardous material releases anywhere in the continental United States within 24 hours.
This legislation would also establish a program to conduct research, development, and testing of oil spill response equipment and techniques. It would also direct the Coast Guard to maintain an inventory of oil spill response equipment that has been tested and approved to ensure that first responders are using the most effective equipment and technologies available.
I hope that we can report the bill unanimously today and that it will be something that all members can support when we turn to Oil Spill legislation on the Senate floor.
The America COMPETES Reauthorization Act
The Committee will be considering legislation to reauthorize the America COMPETES Act, which was the bipartisan response to recommendations contained in the National Academies “Rising Above the Gathering Storm” report. That 2007 law, which expires on September 30, 2010, focuses heavily on (1) increasing research investment, (2) strengthening educational opportunities in the Science, Technology, Engineering, and Mathematics (STEM) fields, and (3) developing an innovation infrastructure.
I was pleased to work with you, Mr. Chairman, on this reauthorization bill, S. 3605. I do believe we must reauthorize this Act to ensure that our nation continues to innovate and remain competitive globally. Science and technology are at the core of America’s ability to compete in an increasingly globalized economy and for solving many of the challenges we face as a nation in energy independence, biotechnology, and healthcare.
STEM education plays an essential role in fostering further development of the 21st Century’s innovation-based economy. Several recent studies caution, however, that a danger exists that Americans may not know enough about the STEM fields to significantly contribute to, or benefit fully from, the knowledge-based society that is taking shape around us.
I am pleased that Texas has been a leader in this area and has a model program that combats this problem by effectively combining undergraduate degrees in the STEM fields with teacher certification. Beginning 1997, the UTeach program has become the national benchmark for teaching excellence and has been mentioned in several high profile reports including the National Academies’ “Rising above the Gathering Storm” report that, as I mentioned, was the catalyst for the America COMPETES Act.
Therefore, I am very pleased that the bill includes a provision that I have championed to replicate nationally the very successful UTeach program, by creating a modest grant program at the National Science Foundation to allow colleges and universities to adopt the UTeach program to recruit and prepare students who major in STEM fields to become certified as elementary and secondary school teachers through electives. I do want to mention, however, that I have some remaining concerns over the funding levels in this bill.
While I appreciate the Chairman’s willingness to work with me to reduce the funding levels by about 10 percent from the measure introduced, I believe we will need to further adjust the funding levels before this bill can be joined with the Titles from the HELP and Energy Committees and pass the full Senate. We’ve come a long way in streamlining the bill, but we have more work to do. But I will certainly join in supporting the bill being reported today and look forward to helping move it through the legislative process in a bipartisan manner.
The Securing Health for Ocean Resources and Environment Act
Mr. Chairman, I also have reservations about the SHORE Act. Although many of the provisions will enhance our ability to respond to, and understand the impacts of, oil spills, other provisions will cause increased litigation and delays in the offshore oil and gas permitting process.
The President’s offshore moratorium is already costing thousands of jobs in the Gulf coast and adding new layers of complexity to the already complex regulatory process via legislation will only exacerbate this issue. I hope to work with you, Mr. Chairman, to ensure that this legislation will promote safe offshore oil and gas activity without adding new, unnecessary levels of bureaucracy.
We are also moving forward this afternoon to report the Spectrum Relocation and Improvement Act of 2010.
Again, I thank the Chairman for holding this Executive Session and I look forward to making progress on the bills before us today.