Sens. Murkowski and Burr Urge Administration to Commit All Available Resources to Gulf Spill Cleanup

WASHINGTON, D.C. - U.S. Sen. Lisa Murkowski, R-Alaska, and Sen. Richard Burr, R-North Carolina, today sent a letter asking the Obama administration what steps it was taking to ensure that all offers by foreign oil-spill response vessels to help clean up the spill in the Gulf of Mexico were accepted.

Murkowski and Burr said they are concerned with reports that foreign vessels, including oil skimmers and specialized dredging ships, are being turned away from the Gulf because they lack a waiver to the Jones Act, which restricts the operation of foreign vessels in U.S. waters.

U.S. Coast Guard Adm. Thad Allen has requested that Jones Act waivers be granted to foreign ships offering to help clean up the spill - a request Murkowski and Burr fully support.

"The urgency and seriousness of the circumstances demand swift and unequivocal responses from our leaders," Murkowski said. "We must have all hands on deck and should not be turning away legitimate offers of help. That means making sure all capable U.S. vessels are engaged and, when necessary, accepting help from our allies."

"We need to ensure that everything possible is being done to plug this well and clean up the Gulf," Burr said. "I'm deeply troubled by reports that legitimate offers of help are being turned away by our own government. Waiving the Jones Act is a common-sense step that the president can take to allow us to use every effective tool to contain and clean up the oil."

In their letter, Murkowski and Burr asked the administration for three clarifications:

  • Has there been any foreign vessel or service that has been made available for response efforts that have been denied such a role for any reason other than its particular function being unnecessary?
  • Will the administration immediately commit to an expedited waiver system in which all potentially useful foreign vessels are presumed compliant and granted?
  • Is the administration taking any steps to not only advise but to solicit aid from international asset holders for purposes of this response, including publicizing the expedited waiver guidance documents in relevant seafaring nations and major port cities?

Presidential waiving of the Jones Act is not unprecedented. President George W. Bush waived the Jones Act in the aftermath of Hurricanes Katrina and Rita so that foreign countries could send assistance to the region.

"If the president is serious about fighting this disaster ‘with everything we've got,' then he will allow those who have offered aid to come in and help us," Burr said. "With a massive environmental and economic crisis that is continuing to spread, we don't have the luxury of saying no to honest offers of help."

The full letter is attached.

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