Opening Statement of Senator Vitter
May 11, 2010
Senate Environment and Public Works Committee
“Economic and Environmental Impacts of the Recent Oil Spill in the Gulf of Mexico”
· The challenges we currently face in the Gulf of Mexico following the well collapse at Deepwater Horizon could not be understated. We have industries facing uncertainty, numerous fisheries facing shutdown, and men and women of Louisiana concerned about their livelihood and their families.
· As a member of this committee and a gulf state senator whose state has been affected by the spill, I'm disappointed that the chair has decided to ignore my request to delay this hearing until we've actually capped the well and made headway protecting our coastline.
· There is a time for politics and there is a time for action, with all hands on deck. Our role on this committee in oversight is important, but the timing of that oversight is important as well.
· Just as it is for the coastal citizens of Louisiana, and the impacted communities, the people of Louisiana don’t want to see Washington trying to solve the problem from a committee room when working to close the 5,000 barrel per day well sight should be priority number one.
· As a good example, one of today’s witnesses from the Governor’s office, who was expected to testify on the oil spill impact’s had to cancel around midnight last night, stating that “Boom shortages and continued movement westward is really challenging our ability to protect the coast.”
· As it stands, the initial efforts at capping the well have failed. For every 5 miles of coastline potentially exposed to the spill we have less than 1 mile of boom in place. In the best case scenario it will be at least another week before the flow can be significantly stymied, and at the worst case scenario it could be another 75 days before a relief well intercepts the flow.
· The first attempt at capping the well with dome technology called a “cofferdam” has thus far failed. Unfortunately, gas at the depths and temperature we are dealing with, nearly a mile below the sea surface, immediately wants to crystallize and form a hydrate, thus clogging and piping efforts to the surface.
· A second attempt at capping and capturing the well is expected to be attempted in the near future, in hopes that the technological challenge of preventing the gas from forming hydrates can be mitigated.
· From what I have seen on the ground I cannot be more proud to represent Louisiana. The outpouring of our citizens wanting to get involved and help with the cleanup effort is impressive. We have fishermen and recreational boaters wanting to offer their boats to help with laying boom. We have citizens lining up to help with wildlife and habitat cleanup efforts. We have every idea and offer to supply everything from airplanes to hay being offered as options.
· In my multiple conversations with the Coast Guard it has been made clear that getting more boom in the water to stave off coastal impacts has become a renewed priority that the state much needs.
· As well, I have been in discussions with my fellow Gulf senators on how we can update and revise the Oil Pollution Act to better be prepared in the future should such a catastrophe occur. We cannot abandon the energy we need to fuel our economy, and we must be better prepared in the future.