Preparedness and Response to Oil Spills In Offshore Waters Bordering the U.S.

October 18, 2011

“Good morning.  Today we are going to receive testimony from two panels of experts about an issue of great importance to this committee – that is, offshore oil development.     More precisely, we will examine the status of response capability and readiness for oil spills in foreign Outer Continental Shelf waters adjacent to U.S. waters.


“This activity presents a complex set of issues related to its risks and benefits.  Last year the world learned a hard lesson through the Deepwater Horizon disaster.  We learned that there are tragic consequences for human life, environmental quality, marine resources and the economy if offshore development is conducted with anything but the highest degree of skill and care.    


“For these reasons, the committee spent a significant amount of time in this and the previous Congress considering issues related to oil drilling and development in the waters of the United States.


“Obviously, we need to continue to be dedicated to ensuring that the activities in our own waters are done safely and in a manner that protects the environment.  Additionally, it’s clear that with respect to offshore activities, the actions of our marine neighbors are important to consider as well.  As many people have already said, oil spills do not respect international boundaries.


“There are indications that several of our neighbors are planning to increase offshore oil development.  Specifically, Cuba, Mexico, the Bahamas and Canada – in both the Canadian Arctic and eastern Canadian waters – all have activities underway that could lead to increased offshore development.


“The complexities of these activities that exist for operations in U.S. waters will obviously be faced by our neighbors as well.  In addition, there are particular issues related, for example, to the Cuban embargo and to the challenges presented by oil spill response in arctic areas. 


“Our goal in considering these issues is to find the best means, including international activities, that will allow us to protect our shared marine resources and those whose safety and livelihood depend on these resources. 


“Today we will hear from some of our government experts on the first panel who are working to address these issues, and then also from other experts in oil spill response in the Gulf, Caribbean and arctic regions.  I look forward to the testimony and to continuing this committee’s work to address the risks and challenges involved in these complex offshore activities.”

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