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 Oversight and Subcommittee on Water and Wildlife joint hearing entitled, "EPA's Role in Protecting Ocean Health."

Tuesday, May 11, 2010, 10:00 a.m.

Good morning.  We are here today to examine EPA's work to monitor and reduce environmental risks to our marine and coastal ecosystems.   This subject is particularly timely given the challenges we currently face in responding to the oil spill in the Gulf of Mexico, though I will save most of my comments on that terrible event for the hearing this Committee is conducting this afternoon.  I look forward to hearing more about EPA's work to protect ocean health as well as the private-public partnerships that exist to understand and reduce risks to this important ecosystem.

Our oceans are a precious resource and we should take appropriate steps to ensure they are protected.  Though I hail from Oklahoma, I have a particular personal interest in the ocean and coasts. 

We know that many things affect the health of oceans and coastlines - in some cases, human activities and, in some cases, natural processes.  So, one of the most important things I hope to learn today is the state of the science on oceans.  I hope the witnesses will discuss what we really do and, perhaps most important, do not know about oceans.   Fully understanding all the circumstances that impact ocean health will help us make informed decisions about how to better protect these important natural resources, as well as the communities and economies that depend on them. 

We will hear today about how certain toxins affect oceans.   Much has been done already to minimize and mitigate the most potent of these toxins, so I hope that the witnesses will acknowledge and make recommendations building on this progress.

We will also discuss the concept of ocean acidification.  Without question, the pH of oceans impacts the creatures that live there.  But, there is scientific uncertainty as to whether, in general, oceans are actually becoming more acidic, and, if so, what that means and what is the cause.  We must be certain that we have a full picture of all the outside sources and natural cycles that affect the balance of the ocean. 

To help us understand the full picture, we will hear from Dr. John Everett, a former scientist with the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration, who's now a consultant on ocean issues, about his studies that suggest the oceans will remain alkaline even as they absorb more carbon dioxide. I look forward to his testimony and his broader points that open-minded research is needed to keep this issue in perspective.