Sen. Murkowski’s Opening Statement at DOI OCS Hearing

WASHINGTON, D.C. - U.S. Sen. Lisa Murkowski, R-Alaska, ranking member of the Senate Energy and Natural Resources Committee, gave the following opening statement today at a hearing on oil and gas drilling on the outer continental shelf.

"Secretary Salazar, welcome back to you and your staff. It's been several weeks since your last appearance before this committee and in that time, the Deepwater Horizon spill has made landfall in new areas and found its way into the marshes of Southern Louisiana. Two weeks ago I also had the opportunity to join you for an assessment of the situation in the Gulf, along with the Chairman and our colleagues from Louisiana. That experience registered the gravity of this situation and the nightmare that it has become for the residents of the Gulf region.

"Today we have to examine the measures that the Interior Department has recommended and implemented, so far, in response to the Deepwater Horizon spill. We're examining not only the 44 page report on immediate recommendations for improved safety and environmental protections, but also we need to discuss the moratorium that the Interior Department has implemented for all deepwater exploration and additional requirements and suspensions for some shallow water exploration as well.

"There can be no doubt that public outrage and political pressure has mounted for the government to do more about this still worsening situation. I'm sympathetic to those demands. Yesterday I met with one Alaskan who will testify before another committee today on the long term impacts of oil spills on fisheries as we experienced after Exxon Valdez. This story is, unfortunately, familiar to me and my constituents.

"But our conversation was not only about fisheries, it was about the constant struggle in finding a balance between the exploration and production of oil which our state depends upon for the majority of its economy against the critical and compelling interests of maintaining our ecosystems which support the remaining building blocks of our fisheries and tourism economies. The Gulf is faced with a stark picture of the associated tradeoffs right now.

"So, I applaud the Interior Department for its efforts, as stated in the report, to address the fact that America's energy security is likely to carry exploration increasingly into very deep water environments, and how to reevaluate whether the best practices for safe drilling operations developed over the years might be adjusted for the unique challenges of drilling so very far under the sea. These are not just technical challenges but they are human challenges - which can be tricky to regulate without successfully creating a culture, both at the regulatory and industrial level, that prioritizes safety and, in turn, protects from anything like Deepwater Horizon ever happening again.

"I am sure that we will look back at lessons learned not only from what happened on April 20th, but from the various operational responses to the spill and most certainly we will learn lessons from our policy responses to this spill. We cannot do too little, but I truly believe that doing too much in some cases would be just as hazardous. Consider the fact that one of the largest independent offshore operators announced yesterday that it is packing up and moving three of its rigs to foreign waters. Is this consequence unintended; or is it something that we're willing to accept?

"Mr. Chairman, there is a lot to talk about here. I want there to be no effort or expense spared to bring the well under control and see to it that the victims of this spill are compensated fairly and expeditiously - I am working across the aisle to make sure that happens. As we look at policy moving forward I simply reiterate that we carefully consider the impacts of this spill on policy. We have to get it right.

"Energy Secretary Chu announced yesterday that Department is providing online access to diagnostic results and other data about the malfunctioning blowout preventer. He said that "Transparency is not only in the public interest, it is part of the scientific process. We want to make sure that independent scientists, engineers and other experts have every opportunity to review this information and make their own conclusions."

"I would echo Secretary Chu's statements - let's reform policy in a transparent, reasoned manner where the public and the scientific community and all interested parties can review it. We have a lot of work to do in reviewing these policies today."

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