Mr./Madam Speaker, I yield myself such time as I may consume.
Advances in drilling technologies have allowed industry to venture into ever deeper waters in search of the enormous oil and gas reserves found there. Operating in such extreme environments entails immense engineering and technology challenges, the complexity of which is encountered in few other endeavors.
But, in this high-stakes game, our addiction to oil has ensured that the payoff of pushing the technology envelope was worth the minimal risk. Or, so we thought.
The tragedy of the BP Deepwater Horizon proved that poor decision-making and inadequate technologies can bring unimaginable consequences. Eleven men died, and because this incident occurred in 5,000 feet of water, we have yet to permanently stop this spill now three months after it began.
In the hyper-competitive field of energy, the industry is naturally guarded about sharing information and collaborating on proprietary technology development. But safety is universal, and it is time that we utilize federal resources in pushing the technology envelope towards safer and more environmentally responsible oil and natural gas exploration and production.
My bill, H.R. 5716, the “Safer Oil and Natural Gas Drilling Technology Research and Development Act”, does just that by realigning the focus and funding of the existing program set-up under Section 999 of the Energy Policy Act of 2005 on environmental and worker safety, and accident prevention and mitigation. I introduced this bill after close collaboration with my friend from Texas, Mr. Hall, who has been the long-time champion of this program.
As we look for federal resources to rapidly advance this field, it is somewhat fortuitous that the 999 program is already in-place. Both the outside research consortium, RPSEA (“rip-see”), and the program at that National Energy Technology Laboratory are well-suited to take on the challenge of R&D into technologies for drilling safety and accident prevention and mitigation.
As the DOE lab for Fossil Energy, NETL (“nettle”) has an extensive research infrastructure and a long history of expertise and excellence in this field. And, though relatively new, RPSEA currently has approximately 170 members from across industry, academia, NGOs, and government research entities. Furthermore, the program does not require new spending since it is already funded from $50 million in royalty revenues.
If properly realigned to meet the current challenges, these research programs authorized by Section 999 represent the Department of Energy’s best resources for improving safety and reducing the environmental impact of offshore and onshore oil and natural gas exploration and production activities.
As I said, H.R. 5716 is the product of significant bipartisan collaboration, and I want to thank Mr. Hall, his staff, and the other Members of the Science and Technology Committee for their continued good work as we move this legislation through the process.
I reserve the balance of my time.