Chairman Rockefeller Remarks on Today's Executive Session

July 22, 2010

Chairman RockefellerWASHINGTON, 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.