WASHINGTON, D.C. -- Today, Rep. Ed Markey (D-MA), a senior member of the House Energy and Commerce and Resources Committees, released the following statement on the recent spill and subsequent shutdown of BP’s oil pipeline in Prudhoe Bay, Alaska.

Rep. Markey previously questioned Stacey L. Gerard, Acting Administrator/Chief Safety Officer Pipeline and Hazardous Materials Administration in the Department of Transportation, at an Energy and Commerce Committee Hearing in March about the condition of BP’s pipelines in Prudhoe Bay and what would happen to the U.S. oil market if they needed to be shut down for long-overdue repairs and maintenance.  The transcript for those questions and answers are below as well.

“Today’s shutdown of BP’s eastern operating on the North Slope field appears to be the result of the chronic mismanagement of its drilling operations in the U.S.,” said Rep. Edward J. Markey, a senior Member of the Energy and Commerce and Resources Committees, who questioned Department of Transportation officials about an earlier BP spill of 267,000 gallons of oil from Prudhoe Bay.

“We learned from the Transportation Department in March, after the largest oil spill in the history of the North Slope, that BP had not cleaned many of its pipelines for years.  In contrast, other pipelines up on the North Slope are cleaned every few weeks.”

“While BP’s negligence is deplorable, those charged with the oversight of these pipelines must also be given the full powers needed to do their job.  The Department of Transportation needs to be given clear legal authority to implement minimum maintenance standards so that these shutdowns are avoided,” continued Rep. Markey.  "Agency officials testified to the Subcommittee that they needed such authority, but Congress has not yet approved legislation to give them the full oversight and enforcement powers needed."

Markey said, “With oil above $70 per barrel and BP making record profits, it can afford to properly clean and maintain its pipelines. This sudden loss of production will dramatically increase oil prices and the American people will be footing the bill for this combined failure of DOT's regulatory oversight and BP’s corporate responsibility.”

A copy of a transcript from the Energy & Commerce Committee's Oversight Hearing detailing Rep. Markey & Stacey Gerad's exchange can be found here: Hearing Transcript Excerpts (Markey & DOT).pdf

August 7, 2006

CONTACT: Israel Klein