Matt Dempsey (202) 224-9797

David Lungren (202) 224-5642

Opening Statement of Senator James M. Inhofe

Ranking Member, Senate Committee on Environment and Public Works

Subcommittee on Water and Wildlife hearing entitled, "Assessing Natural Resource Damages Resulting from the BP Deepwater Horizon Disaster."

Tuesday, July 27, 2010 2:30 p.m.

Thank you, Senator Cardin, for scheduling today's subcommittee hearing to discuss the difficult and extensive process of determining natural resource damages stemming from BP's Deepwater Horizon disaster.

I would like to briefly mention that I am working on a report on the Administration's response to the BP incident thus far.  To date we have discovered numerous bureaucratic delays to mitigation and containment caused by federal entities, and I look forward to a thoughtful discussion on some of those issues today. 

After the tragic Exxon Valdez spill, which occurred over 20 years ago now, Congress worked diligently to pass the Oil Pollution Act of 1990 (OPA) to help address many of the legislative gaps and shortcomings highlighted by that tragedy.  The OPA was created with the important goals of strengthening federal authority over oil spill removal actions, creating a federal liability scheme for addressing oil spills, and addressing the issues of removal costs and damages.  OPA established a solid framework for response that was missing during the Exxon Valdez spill. This hearing can help us examine the process of natural resource damage assessment currently underway and hopefully give us the necessary guidance to improve any inadequacies. 

As I have stated before, when it comes to the BP disaster, our focus should be on:

  • Mitigating and containing the environmental impacts;
  • Providing assistance to the victims in the Gulf; and
  • Investigating the causes so we can prevent a disaster of this kind from happening again.

Today our committee is fortunate to have a distinguished group of witnesses that have diverse and unique experiences to share.  I would especially like to thank John Young, Chairman of the Jefferson Parish Council, for testifying today.  Mr. Young has experience both in working on the aftermath of Hurricane Katrina as well as the current BP spill.  He has valuable insight into the ongoing response effort during this tragedy and has first-hand knowledge of the coordination and relief efforts on the ground. 

While we still do not know the full extent of the devastating effects from BP's Deepwater Horizon spill, we owe it to the people in the Gulf region and the American people as a whole to carefully examine the effectiveness of the federal response as well as the potential legislation we in Congress can offer to help.  I hope that this hearing today will be a positive step in that direction.