Statement of Senator Jim Jeffords, I-Vt.
EPW Committee Hearing
Spill Prevention Control and Countermeasures Hearing Mr. Chairman, I welcome this opportunity today to conduct oversight on the EPA’s Spill Prevention Control and Countermeasures program. This program was adopted in 1972 with the passage of the Clean Water Act, in the wake of the Torrey Canyon oil spill in England. Nearly 100,000 gallons of crude oil spilled there, killing over 20,000 sea birds, and contaminating 70 miles of beaches. People often say that an ounce of prevention equals a pound of cure. This program is the epitome of that saying. According to the EPA, the United States uses 250 billion gallons of oil and petroleum products each year. At every point in the production, distribution, and consumption process, oil spills may occur. Oil spills wreak havoc on the environment and local economies. In the short term, they contaminate drinking water and cause large-scale deaths of marine life. They foul beaches and destroy local economies. In the longer term, oil spills affect the health and viability of marine mammals, reptiles, birds, animals, and plants. Local fishing economies may struggle to recover after an oil spill. Recent studies of the Exxon Valdez oil spill have demonstrated that oil has persistent and long-term harmful effects in aquatic ecosystems. I ask unanimous consent to include in the record a study on this topic, which appeared in Science magazine in 2003. Even extremely small spills can cause serious harm. We must do everything we can to prevent them. With that introduction, I am concerned about the overall state of the SPCC program. This program appears to have been largely neglected since its adoption in 1972. Since that time, the GAO and others leveled some serious criticisms at the program that went unaddressed by EPA for years. I’ll be submitting those materials, as well as an update that the GAO prepared for the record of today’s hearing. Today I asked the GAO to review the current program and determine if any progress has been made. I look forward to the results of that review as I consider today’s proposed rulemaking. In 2002, the EPA overhauled the SPCC program, but since the Bush Administration took office, the Agency has postponed the effective date of those changes three times, for a total of four years, making the current effective date 2007. Industry has since used the 2002 regulations as an opportunity to further lobby the Administration to roll back Clean Water Act protections by changing the definition of navigable waters. Today, the SPCC program stands basically as it was in 1972. We have surely learned something about oil spill prevention over the last 35 years. It is imperative that we have a strong program in place with good enforcement. It is with that in mind that I will be listening to today’s witnesses and ask, does the EPA proposed rule and guidance document take us forward or backward in our efforts to protect our nation’s waterways from oil contamination? Thank you, Mr. Chairman.