House Oceans Subcommittee Hears GRN on BP’s Drilling Disaster Impacts

Last Thursday I had the honor of offering testimony to the House Natural Resources Committee’s Subcommittee on Insular Affairs, Oceans, and Wildlife. You can watch the whole hearing here. I spoke on a panel with fellow Gulf Coast Fund advisor, Brenda Dardar of the United Houma Nation (read her powerful testimony about the impacts to her community here), scientists, and representatives from the commercial and recreational fishing sectors, we were able to greatly expand the Congressional record to reflect a wide range of the environmental and economic impacts of BP’s deepwater drilling disaster. You can read GRN’s testimony here.The real fireworks happened during the previous panel. With represesntatives of the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Services, NOAA, and Louisiana’s Secretary Robert Barham of the Department of Wildlife and Fisheries, things got heated during the Q & A…After the two federal agencies testified about their extensive and effective work responding to the disaster (these folks must be working a different disaster than we’ve been monitoring), Secretary Barham offered a clear call for more resources, better science, and an end to the subsea application of dispersants. When the 5 minute statements were over, the House members started in, and the federal agencies began an interesting dance of both defending their work, and supporting the call for more resources. Congresswoman Carol Shea-Porter continued her dogged advocacy for the Gulf Coast, and went after NOAA continually to actually explain what they did to prepare for this type of disaster, in the face of assertions from the NOAA representative that the agency “did all they could to work with other agencies and prepare for spills.” The shocking assertion is at 1:30:00 in the hearing.The single most shocking statement came from Jane Lyder from U.S. Fish and Wildlife and the Department of the Interior in defense of her sister agency, the Minerals Management Services. When questioned about why Fish and Wildlife and MMS weren’t requiring a real assesment of the possible impacts to endangered species due to a blowout, she replied, “because a catastrophic oil spill was viewed as very unlikely because we hadn’t seen a catastrophic oil spill from a rig since the late ’60’s, that was part of the analysis, but now we have so the consultation process will change.” But of course the multinational oil companies who do the deepwater exploration have had a number of catastrophic blowouts, and anyone who was reading the newspaper would have seen that, but apparently our federal agencies don’t consider those accidents germain to what’s happening in the Gulf.Aaron Viles is GRN’s campaign director