Democratic News

Opening Statement – Jan. 26, 2011
Report and Recommendations of the
National Commission on the BP Deepwater Horizon Oil Spill and Offshore Drilling
“This is the Committee’s first hearing in the 112th Congress.  We appropriately begin our work with an issue of the highest priority -- the Deepwater Horizon tragedy.  We have an important role to play in understanding what happened and ensuring that it will never happen again.  This subject deserves our urgent attention. 
“It is now nine months since the Deepwater Horizon offshore drilling rig exploded and sank, taking the lives of 11 people.  Following that explosion, oil gushed into the Gulf of Mexico for almost three months before it could be contained, spilling an estimated 170 million gallons – the largest oil spill in the nation’s history. 
“As I said at the time of the disaster, this is not just Louisiana’s problem.  This is America’s problem.   Despite the passage of time, this remains a serious problem not just for the Gulf region, but for our nation as a whole.
“While there may be disagreement about where and how to do it, no one can doubt the need to continue to produce domestic oil and gas.  However, much of our remaining reserves are offshore, and in deep water, and far below the ocean floor.  The Deepwater Horizon tragedy has taught us that such development involves a highly complex interplay of technologies and human decisions that sometimes must be made quickly on the basis of uncertain and evolving information.  State-of-the-art safety systems with sufficient margin for error and clear lines of communication, responsibility and authority are essential.
“Now that the oil is under control, it is tempting for those with some distance from the events to ignore the difficult reality of offshore drilling and move on to other things.  Those in the Gulf who have dealt directly with the loss of life or the environmental and economic consequences of the tragedy cannot do that either.  For their sake, and for the national interest, the rest of us must not do that.   We must complete this work, and ensure that this oil and gas development is done safely every time, and that failure is not an option.
“For all these reasons, we must ensure that we have systems in place in our government and in the industry so that this cannot happen again.   Beyond that, we should lead the world in development of these systems and technology and not settle for standards that are less rigorous than those of other nations. 
“This is a complex and challenging matter.  This Committee unanimously reported legislation in the 111th Congress that would take many of the necessary steps.  Since then the Department of the Interior has taken a number of important actions to address these issues.  Nevertheless, I continue to believe that legislative change is necessary to fully ensure safe operations going forward, and intend to introduce legislation again in this Congress.
“Additional information has become available from a variety of sources since we prepared our legislation last summer.  This new information will help us make improvements to that bipartisan legislation, as will the effort here on the Committee.  In that regard, we are very appreciative of the detailed and thoughtful work of the National Commission on the BP Deepwater Horizon Oil Spill and Offshore Drilling.  Working under a six-month deadline, they produced an impressive body of work, including key recommendations for achieving the kind of system of offshore energy development that we aspire to have. 
“We’re really grateful for the work of the Commission and their excellent staff.  We’re pleased to have the Commission co-chairs, Sen. Bob Graham and The Hon. William Reilly, as our witnesses today.”
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