Opening Statement – June 24, 2010
Outer Continental Shelf and Energy Production
“We’re here today to continue our work on issues related to the disaster in the Gulf of Mexico. Today we will hear testimony on legislation that has been introduced related to this issue and to the management of the Outer Continental Shelf. These matters are urgent, and I am hopeful that we will proceed quickly to consider legislation on these issues in the Committee next week.
“We continue our work with the backdrop of oil still gushing into the Gulf of Mexico more than 60 days after the initial explosion of the Deepwater Horizon rig. As the Congress formulates its overall response to this disaster, its first order of business must be to continue to care for the families of those who lost their lives in the rig explosion, and those Gulf residents who are suffering every day through loss of livelihood and of places and wildlife.
“At the same time, it also is essential that we look to the future, and to creating a better structure and system within the regulatory agency with responsibility for this. Creating this structure is a particular responsibility of this Committee.
“One goal must be, of course, to prevent future disasters. But we can and must do more than that.
“Congress should create organizational resources and a set of principles and requirements that will have safety, environmental protection, and innovation at its core. We should require that both industry and agency employees have the expertise, experience, and commitment to quality that is necessary to handle the complex issues involved.
“If we do this right, it is my hope that we can see tangible results on all fronts, and a shift away from the cascade of failures that led to the Deepwater Horizon accident and towards work of the highest quality.
“It is with this in mind that I have introduced S. 3516, the “Outer Continental Shelf Reform Act of 2010.” I am pleased to be joined by Senator Murkowski, Senator Dorgan, and Senator Stabenow as cosponsors, and appreciate their input and their good work on these issues.
“This bill clarifies the multiple responsibilities of the Department of the Interior in managing the Outer Continental Shelf -- appropriate energy and other economic development and the protection of human health and safety and the marine and coastal environment. It reforms the structure of the Department consistent with these responsibilities.
“The bill increases the safety requirements for drilling wells, focuses on best available technology, a systems analysis, risk assessment, an evidentiary safety case, and a full engineering review.
“In furtherance of the development of these standards and the evolution of new and better technology, it requires new research programs within the Department, independent of the leasing program, whose data must be considered by the regulators. It provides dedicated funding for the highest priority research, including the areas of well control and spill response, and an independent science advisory board outside the agency to provide oversight.
“It establishes new requirements for investigation of all accidents and the public sharing of data from those reviews so that all can learn from mistakes before they become major problems. It allows the National Transportation Safety Board to provide an independent and highly skilled investigation of any accident at the request of the Secretary.
“In order to fully enforce the safety requirements, the bill imposes an inspection fee on industry participants to fully fund enough well-trained inspectors to perform real and meaningful inspections more often.
“It also increases sanctions on poor operators, including increased civil and criminal penalties applicable to those who violate the law, and the financial responsibility requirements to ensure that those who participate in development of the Outer Continental Shelf can afford to pay for any damage that they cause.
“The bill provides the Department with adequate time to carry out necessary reviews, clarifies the issues that need to be addressed and makes the input of other Federal agencies occur in a transparent way. The result should be better decisions that will be capable of being implemented with greater certainty.
“I believe these principles and resources can set us on a better path toward managing the incredible natural resources of the Outer Continental Shelf. I am appreciative of the work of other Senators, including many on this Committee, whose work is reflected in this legislation.
“I look forward to working with all of you going forward. We must commit ourselves to the goal of excellence in this important endeavor. We will make a good start today.”
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