Chairman Stevens Introduces Legislation to Repeal Section 5 of the Marine Mammal Protection Act

November 9, 2005

Washington, D.C. – Senate Commerce, Science, and Transportation Committee Chairman Ted Stevens (R-Alaska) has introduced legislation, S. 1977, a bill to repeal Section 5 of the Marine Mammal Protection Act, which has precluded upgrades to the Cherry Point refinery in Washington State.

S. 1977 removes the prohibition on federal agencies from issuing a permit for a marine terminal or dock in Puget Sound if the project would increase the refined products for distribution outside Washington State.

Under current law, refineries and related facilities in Washington State cannot be expanded to produce more gasoline, jet fuel, heating oil, or other energy products unless it only benefits Washington State. As other states on the West Coast struggle with high energy prices, such restrictions impose an undue burden.

“Current law has halted in its tracks the expansion of the Cherry Point Refinery that could supply gasoline and other products from Washington to other states on the West Coast,” said Stevens. “ I have introduced legislation to repeal this outdated and unfair law that results in limited supplies to other regions.”

Upon the introduction of his legislation, Chairman Stevens offered the following statement:

I come to the floor to introduce this bill, which repeals a provision in the 1977 reauthorization of the Marine Mammal Protection Act of 1972 – a provision which unduly restricts our ability to get states on the West Coast the petroleum supplies they need.

In the last several weeks, some of our colleagues have participated in press conferences, sent out news releases, and come to the floor to talk about the impact of high energy prices. They have expressed concern about the effect these prices are having on our economy, our consumers, our businesses, and our national security. I share their concerns. In fact, for over three years I have been urging the Senate to deal with this situation.

It took one of the worst natural disasters in the history of our nation for many to evaluate our energy policy. While the circumstances are tragic, I am glad our colleagues are taking a closer look at this.

The plan our colleagues now support aims to achieve the right goal, but it offers the wrong solution. Their plan calls for energy independence—a goal which I support. But, they tout conservation as the only way to reach this goal. This approach would put us on the wrong course and fail to solve the larger problem.

Our country is in the midst of an energy crisis, and we cannot conserve our way out. To suggest otherwise does a great disservice to all Americans. We don’t need a hollow plan, we need results.

We cannot get out of this crisis by blaming Americans – who are just trying to live their lives, run their businesses, and get to and from work – for the situation we are in. This is not solely a consumption problem; much of this crisis stems from misguided policies which have locked up our lands and prevented us from building new refineries.

The only way to become energy independent is through a combination of initiatives. Conservation is one part of the broader solution. But, we also need to develop renewable and alternative sources of energy and invest in nuclear power. And, we must develop our domestic oil and gas resources which exist on federal lands.

The end to this crisis lies in the balance between conservation and development. Yes, I believe that Americans need to conserve our energy resources, but this alone won’t solve our energy crisis. To suggest it will is to greatly mislead the American public.

We need to get serious about our energy policy. My good friend and colleague, Senator Domenici, has told us we must expand on the energy bill. I agree with Senator Domenici, and I look forward to working with him on an energy policy for this country that makes sense.

Hurricanes Katrina and Rita exposed a weakness in our domestic production and refining capability, a weakness some of us have been warning about for years. All Americans have been hit with higher energy prices in the aftermath of Hurricanes Katrina and Rita.

Some colleagues have expressed concern that this situation was compounded by price gouging. Senator Inouye and I, along with our colleagues on the Commerce Committee, are evaluating several bills pertaining to that issue.

In the process of reviewing these concerns, the claims by those on the West Coast were of particular interest to me. Due to current restrictions in the MMPA, it is almost impossible for companies to expand their refineries to increase supply. The provision repealed by my bill is currently impacting the largest refinery on the West Coast, affecting more than 3000,000 gallons of fuel per day. I introduce this bill to enable us to get petroleum resources to West Coast states quickly, and urge my colleagues to support this initiative.