WASHINGTON, D.C.—The Senate Commerce Committee today announced an Oceans, Atmosphere, Fisheries, and Coast Guard Subcommittee hearing on lessons in prevention, response and restoration from the Gulf oil spill. The hearing will examine the ongoing response to and lessons learned from the Deepwater Horizon oil spill. In addition, the hearing will focus on the continuing challenges relevant agencies and stakeholders face in the wake of the spill, the state of progress of damage assessment and restoration activities, and recommendations for improving the nation’s oil spill prevention and response capacity, and ensuring the long term successful restoration in the Gulf.
Please note the hearing will also be webcast live via the Senate Commerce Committee website at http://commerce.senate.gov. Refresh the Commerce Committee homepage 10 minutes prior to the scheduled start time to view the webcast.
Individuals with disabilities who require an auxiliary aid or service, including closed captioning service for webcast hearings, should contact Collenne Wider at 202-224-5511 at least three business days in advance of the hearing date.
Chairman John D. (Jay) Rockefeller IVU.S. Senate Committee on Commerce, Science, and Transportation
WASHINGTON, D.C.—The goal of today’s hearing is to get an update on the Deepwater Horizon explosion and subsequent leak that covered 1,600 miles of the Gulf Coast with oil. It’s unacceptable to me that more than a year after the worst environmental disaster in the Gulf, the responsible parties have not yet been held fully accountable. The Gulf of Mexico—the people, the coast, and the wildlife, is still waiting to be fully restored—and may never be.
As a nation, we must take whatever steps are necessary to make sure a catastrophe like this never happens again. That applies not just to the environmental and economic impacts but also to the lost lives. My thoughts and prayers go out to the families who lost loved ones. Their pain will endure long after this hearing is over.
The direct and immediate economic consequences of the spill were significant. In the months following the spill, up to 37 percent of the federal waters and significant portions of state waters in the Gulf were closed to fishing, tourism and retail, which all suffered steep declines in the wake of the spill
The true environmental impacts may not be known for decades, but we can be sure that the devastation was widespread.
As a result of the Gulf spill, more than 35 percent of the Gulf Coast’s 1600 plus mile shore line were oiled to some degree; thousands of seabirds were killed, as well as hundreds of dolphins, and many endangered sea turtles. Meanwhile, federal agencies and states are working to assess the damage from the spill and initiate restoration efforts.
Our nation found itself in uncharted waters in its early response to the spill, and now we continue to navigate a uncertain path towards full economic recovery and environmental restoration for the Gulf. Agencies, states, and local economies are hampered by the lack of funding and clear authority, as we will hear from today’s witnesses. This hearing will also identify some of the challenges associated with crafting appropriate scientific benchmarks to guide restoration goals.
The Gulf has long been a source of food and recreation for much of the nation and is home to critically important coastal and marine habitat, yet human activities over the past century have severely degraded Gulf marine and coastal ecosystems.
I look forward to hearing the witnesses’ perspectives regarding how best to facilitate the long term restoration of the Gulf. Looking ahead, there will be an increase in the number of offshore drilling units, and some of those will be in even deeper water. If we don’t make smart decisions now, we could see a repeat of this disaster occur in Alaska or the Atlantic seaboard. If we are going to open new areas to oil and gas exploration that historically were off limits, we must do it right. We must proceed in a responsible way that protects our environment and our coastal communities.
Last year in the weeks following the Gulf blowout I introduced the SHORE Act, to provide agencies, states, and stakeholders with the resources needed to restore the Gulf, and to prevent a disaster like this from happening in the future.
I look forward to working with Senator Begich and other Members of the Committee to update and mark-up this legislation.
I want to thank our witnesses for your willingness to testify before the Committee today.
Witness Panel 1
Rear Admiral Paul F. ZukunftAssistant Commandant for Marine Safety, Security, and StewardshipUnited States Coast Guard
Mr. David M. KennedyAssistant Administrator, National Ocean ServiceNational Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration
Witness Panel 2
The Honorable Grover C. RobinsonCommissionerEscambia County, Florida
Dr. R. Eugene TurnerChaired Professor, Distinguished Research Master, and Distinguished FacultyLouisiana State University
Mr. Erik MilitoGroup Director for Upstream OperationsAmerican Petroleum Institute
Mr. Jim AyersSenior AdvisorOcean Conservancy