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The Select Committee on Energy Independence and Global Warming addressed our nation's energy, economic and national security challenges during the 110th and 111th Congresses.

This is an archived version of the committee's website, where the public, students and the media can continue to access and learn from our work.

Markey Lauds EPA on Oil Dispersant Announcement

Directive to Choose Less Toxic Chemical Follows Markey Letter to EPA 

May 20, 2010 -- Rep. Edward J. Markey (D-Mass.) today commended the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency for ordering BP to use less toxic dispersant chemicals in the company’s cleanup efforts in the Gulf of Mexico. The company has been applying these chemicals deep underwater in an effort to mitigate the Gulf of Mexico oil spill. EPA’s announcement comes just three days after Rep. Markey sent a letter to EPA Administrator Lisa Jackson that raised questions about the potential toxicity of the trademarked formulation, called Corexit, that BP had selected for use, and whether the chemical could be contributing to new reports of large undersea “plumes” of oil suspended thousands of feet below the water's surface.

“I commend the Obama administration for acting swiftly to address my concerns that the dispersant BP chose to use is more toxic than other available formulations,” said Rep. Markey, who chairs the Energy and Environment Subcommittee in the Energy and Commerce Committee. “The effect of long-term use of dispersants on the marine ecosystem has not been extensively studied, and we need to act with the utmost of caution.”

Rep. Markey’s May 17, 2010 letter, which can be found here, noted that some formulations of Corexit, the substances being used in the Gulf of Mexico, were banned in Britain more than a decade ago due to their tested harmful effects to sea life. The letter also asks about the effects of water temperature and pressure on the chemicals, as they are currently and for the first time being used at 5,000 feet where the temperature is near freezing and the pressure of the water is extremely high. Rep. Markey also asked EPA whether these chemicals could accumulate in marine life over time, and what human health impacts could result from eating Gulf seafood.

“The tests used to measure the toxicity of dispersants involve only a 96-hour dose to the marine animals that will be exposed to them – clearly, their effects when they’re used over longer periods might be significantly more damaging,” said Rep. Markey. “The release of hundreds of thousands of gallons of chemicals into the Gulf of Mexico could be an unprecedented, large and aggressive experiment on our oceans. We must ensure that these chemicals, which are being touted as a way to mitigate the effects of the spill, first do no harm to marine life.”

PLEASE NOTE: The House Select Committee on Energy Independence and Global Warming was created to explore American clean energy solutions that end our reliance on foreign oil and reduce carbon pollution.

The Select Committee was active during the 110th and 111th Congresses. This is an archived version of the website, to ensure that the public has ongoing access to the Select Committee record. This website, including external links, will not be updated after Jan. 3rd, 2010.

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