406 Dirksen EPW Hearing Room

John Barrasso


Thank you Mr. Chairman,

The ecological fallout from the oil spill in the Gulf is not yet fully understood.

I’d like to thank the responders for their hard work in the gulf.

Responders in the Gulf were faced with a choice.

On one hand they could allow millions of gallons of oil to pollute beaches, marshes, and wetlands.

This would include the potential devastation of wildlife in these areas.

It would also include hurting jobs in the fishing and tourism industry, and the towns that depend on those industries to provide a tax base from which to pay for schools and emergency services.

On the other hand, the responders could choose to use approved chemical dispersants to break down the oil so bacteria could deal with the problem and prevent some of those tragic consequences.

The amount of dispersant they would need to use would be unprecedented.

But the dispersant at their disposal had been approved by the Clinton Administration’s EPA in 1994.

Responders knew the use of dispersants to address massive oil spills is a well documented practice.

So responders chose the latter.

I think they made the right choice.

But don’t take my word for it.

In terms of the choice between using dispersants or allowing oil to devastate the Gulf’s economy, beaches, and habitat, White House Press Secretary Robert Gibbs said it best – “I think far and away the most harmful substance that is being emitted into the environment in the Gulf is the oil.”

EPA Administrator Lisa Jackson agreed when she said – “This spill is an emergency in every sense of the word, and dispersants are one tool in a situation that could not be more urgent.”

The Wall Street Journal on August 2nd also quoted an EPA statement that said that the agency “believes dispersant use has been an essential tool in mitigating this spill’s impact.”
According to Admiral Thad Allen of the U.S. Coast Guard – “a legitimate alternative” to the dispersant Corexit “has not surfaced yet.”

I would suggest that those who criticize the use of dispersants are the same people who cannot offer one alternative to the use of dispersants in this situation.

They leave responders with a catch twenty two, where either you are blamed for dumping chemicals in the Gulf or you allow the oil to devastate the Gulf.
Some who criticize the use of dispersants want to over-regulate the use of them.

There is no proven need for such an action at this time.

In fact, the sponsors of such legislation have language included in their bill that has the EPA do an “assessment of the adequacy of existing federal laws.”

If there are truly lessons to be learned from the response to this spill, let’s learn them. However, legislating new dispersant regulations before you even know how existing law is working makes no sense.

It would only serve to create more regulation, and slow the response to any future spills.

I thank the Chairman and look forward to testimony.