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Member Speeches :: July 21, 2010

Subcommitttee on Energy and Environment Chairman Brian Baird Statement on H.R. 2693 and H.R. 5716

As prepared for delivery

Mr./Madam Speaker, I rise today in support of the bill before us, H.R. 2693, the Oil Pollution Research and Development Program Reauthorization Act of 2010 and H.R. 5716, the Safer Oil and Natural Gas Drilling Technology Research and Development Act.

These bills represent a timely and necessary measure to address the current gaps in federal research, development, and demonstration on oil spill prevention, response, and safety capabilities.
Recently, I took a trip to the Gulf and saw firsthand the federal response effort to the Deepwater Horizon disaster. The scale of the federal response effort is extraordinary, the crews are putting in 18-hour days, 7 days a week, and they are making progress. 
The Exxon Valdez spill was a catalyst for OPA 90, and Title VII was intended to coordinate federal research and to encourage the development of new technologies to address oil spills. Despite a detailed research plan, there have been only modest technological advances in oil spill cleanup technology since the law was enacted. Today, we are using essentially the same tools in the Gulf as we were using 20 years ago in Prince William Sound, Alaska.
We have a massive ongoing response effort with tens of thousands of people working in the Gulf to clean up this oil. Response workers are deploying boom, conducting in situ burns, skimming oil from the surface of the water, dispensing chemical dispersants, and picking up tar balls from beaches. Responders are working to protect the Gulf, its wetlands, beaches, fisheries, and industries. Unfortunately, all of these response tools need improving.
We now face new challenges that require resources and our brightest minds to push the envelope of research and technology development. We face a future of oil exploration and transport at depths and in regions never before imagined. Spills will happen and we need proper tools to respond—to protect our economy, our environment, and our way of life. It is undeniable that the United States needs a more robust research and development strategy to reduce the environmental and economic impacts of oil spills.
I stand here today in support of reauthorizing and strengthening the program that funds research to advance our ability to respond to and clean up oil spills. 
H.R. 2693 modifies the research, development, and demonstration program authorized in OPA 90 to ensure the ongoing development of methods and technologies to prevent, detect, recover, and mitigate oil spills. The bill designates the U.S. Coast Guard, the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA), the Department of the Interior (DOI),and the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) as members of an interagency coordinating committee (ICC). The bill also makes a number of changes to strengthen the research role of NOAA, an agency that has been given the responsibility of conducting oil spill research, but has not been provided with adequate resources.
My subcommittee on Energy and Environment has held multiple hearings on oil spill research and development at NOAA, the U.S. Coast Guard, DOI, EPA, and included academic and private sector scientists. Our witnesses raised several issues, including the need for international cooperation on research, difficulties with sharing data between the federal response team and academic scientists, and the hurdles associated with getting research and technologies in the water for real world testing and implementation. 
The bill includes measures to:
·         direct the ICC to coordinate and cooperate with foreign nations and research entities, and
·         make research available to the federal response team during an oil emergency.
·         to direct the ICC to identify a way by which research and technologies can be pre-approved prior to an oil emergency. This would allow pre-approved research and technologies to be readily available in the event of an oil emergency and for rapid implementation and testing in the field.
The Deepwater Horizon spill will leave lasting environmental impacts, many of which remain unknown. Clean-up is likely to continue for decades. H.R. 2693 will ensure that federal agencies collaborate and continue to conduct research, development, and demonstration projects in the years to come.
Mr./Madam Speaker, I yield back the balance of my time.

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