OFFSHORE DRILLING; Congressional Record Vol. 163, No. 73
(Senate - April 28, 2017)

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[Page S2638]
From the Congressional Record Online through the Government Publishing Office [www.gpo.gov]




                           OFFSHORE DRILLING

  Ms. CANTWELL. Mr. President, President Trump, in his attempt to 
deflect focus from the 100-day performance in his administration is, 
today, throwing a Hail Mary pass to try to allow offshore oil and 
natural gas drilling to take place in very protected areas of our Outer 
Continental Shelf.
  The President's approach is unlawful and should be withdrawn before 
taxpayers pay any amount of money to go forward with it. He is 
attempting to open up coastal areas to oil and gas production, and he 
is touting job creation as a factor in his decision. I believe that the 
economic numbers revealed today show that we need to be doing more, but 
I doubt that this approach will be a successful approach for more 
American jobs.
  The truth is that instead of creating new jobs, President Trump is 
poised to favor sectors that will compete with the already growing and 
thriving industries of fishing, tourism, and recreation, and in some 
potential areas will also threaten defense issues where we could have a 
potential conflict.
  The bottom line is that the BP Deepwater Horizon explosion and 
subsequent oil spill was a catastrophic human, economic and ecological 
disaster. Eleven members of the crew were killed in the explosion, and 
17 others were injured. Oil spewed in the ocean for nearly 3 months, 
resulting in the largest oil spill disaster in the history of the 
United States.
  In the end, the BP Horizon disaster resulted in 134 million gallons 
of oil spilled into the Gulf of Mexico; that is 12 times more than the 
Exxon Valdez tanker spill in 1989 in Alaska.
  I should say that many attempts have been made by Democrats in 
Congress to make sure we continue to update our laws. But Republicans 
have repeatedly blocked legislation that would hold polluters liable 
for oil spills and improve offshore safety and environmental responses.
  So today it is very frustrating that the President of the United 
States is proposing to roll back the important safety regulations that 
were put in place during the Obama administration. In fact, this book 
right here shows the Deepwater Horizon impact that was discussed by 
Members of Congress, the problems we had at the Department of Interior, 
and asked that these new regulations be put in place.
  These regulations by the Obama administration helped put a new regime 
into place after Deepwater Horizon. But now President Trump is bringing 
those regulations into question, suggesting that we should roll them 
back. He is even questioning the new regulations on blowout preventer 
systems and well control, which, if my colleagues will remember, was 
the centerpiece of the problem with Deepwater Horizon.
  The blowout preventers used had not been tested; the information was 
not overseen and regulated properly. So after all of that damage was 
outlined in this report and we made sure to implement changes, now 
President Trump, in his first 100 days as the President of the United 
States, instead of coming up with a better economic strategy is simply 
saying: Roll back regulations on polluters as a strategy for moving 
forward.
  President Obama had also put large portions of the Arctic and dozens 
of underwater canyons off the east coast permanently off limits to 
drilling during his time in office, using his authority under the Outer 
Continental Shelf Lands Act. In the finalized Offshore Oil and Gas 
Leasing Program for 2017-2022, the Obama administration removed the 
west coast, east coast, and Arctic waters from oil and gas exploration.
  Why did he do that? He did that primarily because of the maritime 
economy. In Washington State alone, the maritime economy supports 
148,000 jobs and $30 billion in economic activity. Many of these parts 
of the United States could not afford to be devastated again by oil 
spills or exploration into ecologically sensitive areas like the 
Arctic.
  I believe the Atlantic region was rightly removed due to strong local 
opposition, conflicts with other ocean uses, and market dynamics. The 
Department of the Interior recognized the potential environmental and 
economic impacts and competing ocean uses. For example, the economic 
value of commercial fishing in just the Mid-Atlantic region is worth 
more than $1.5 billion, and ocean-dependent tourism is more than $10 
billion in the Atlantic region.
  So I would say that the fishing economy, the tourism economy, and 
DOD's need for sea lanes in the Atlantic are all important, and we 
should not be trying to roll back Obama administration regulations in 
these areas. It is not surprising that there was significant opposition 
to the oil and gas leasing from citizens, local officials, and people 
who reside in these communities.
  I can tell you, if this rule includes the west coast, there will be 
strong opposition from the State of Washington, the State of 
California, and the State of Oregon, where we are so dependent on 
healthy oceans and sustainable fisheries. We hope to clarify whether or 
not the west coast will be included in President Trump's executive 
order, but if it is, the west coast will speak loudly. From our 
shellfish growers to our vibrant commercial and recreational fisheries, 
and generations of families who have to have sustainably harvested 
Dungeness crab, salmon, and halibut.
  We do not want to put them at risk with offshore drilling. Not only 
would a spill impact our fisheries and habitat, but it could impact our 
Olympic National Marine Sanctuary. It would also have an impact on one 
of the busiest shipping lanes in the Strait of Juan de Fuca, in and out 
of Washington's busy, busy ports.
  Washington's coast is a trade superhighway. Our shipping and trade 
economy is growing faster than ever. In the first quarter of this year, 
the total domestic and international container volume increased by 10 
percent. In our State, this maritime economy is worth $30 billion in 
economic activity. It supports over 148,000 jobs, in fishing, in 
seafood processing, in shipbuilding, and other maritime sectors.
  Because of this importance, we believe in protecting the west coast. 
President George H.W. Bush signed the first Executive order banning 
offshore drilling in the Pacific in 1990. We would recommend that this 
President follow suit.
  It is so unfortunate that this new effort to repeal protections is 
going forward, but I believe it is going to fail. Many know that this 
action is just an attempt to reverse the past President's withdrawal of 
sensitive areas, like in the Arctic and the Atlantic, and is not 
authorized. It is not authorized under the Outer Continental Shelf 
Lands Act, and, therefore, the President should not spend money. He 
should go back to the people who know the law and understand that this 
is a waste of taxpayer dollars.
  I hope the President will dialogue with Congress about any of our 
ideas to stimulate our economy. I am happy to talk at any point in time 
about ideas that we have that will move our country forward, produce 
jobs, and help stimulate economic growth.
  But expanding offshore drilling and exploration to areas that already 
have been limited and set aside by past Presidents is not the way to 
proceed. We need to make sure that an industry that has made mistakes 
is held accountable and recommendations that were in this report not be 
reversed back to the days before Deepwater Horizon. This is what we 
need to do to protect our vital maritime economy and make sure there 
are laws on the books that the oil and gas industry need to comply 
with.
  I yield the floor.

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