Companies Must Also Invest in Prevention, Response, and Cleanup Technologies, Says Chairman

WASHINGTON (July 21, 2010) – After a House Energy and Commerce Committee investigation exposed the inadequacy of the major oil companies’ Gulf of Mexico oil spill response plans, four of the top five oil companies today announced they would create a new containment system for future blowouts. The previous plans from the four companies—ExxonMobil, Shell, Chevron and ConocoPhillips—were written by the same subcontractor, were 90 percent identical, and included phone numbers for long-deceased experts and mentioned the need to evacuate walruses from the Gulf of Mexico.

At a hearing before the Energy and Environment Subcommittee, chaired by Rep. Edward J. Markey (D-Mass.), the heads of the four companies, and BP, admitted the response plans were an "embarrassment." Following that hearing, Reps. Markey, Bart Stupak (D-Mich.) and Henry A. Waxman (D-Calif.) wrote to the companies demanding that they produce new, effective response plans for a spill. That letter can be found HERE.

"This is only one possible tool in what must be a more robust tool kit for oil companies to respond to spills," said Rep. Markey. "This could be a positive step, but it cannot be the industry’s last."

"While this proposal’s response time could be quicker than this spill, the proposal these companies are submitting is essentially the current BP cap system and plan for 100 percent collection of oil," continued Rep. Markey. "This current, ad hoc system erected by BP cannot and should not be the final proposal by these companies. While this could be a rapidly-deployed system, the oil companies must do better than BP’s current apparatus with a fresh coat of paint. The oil companies must also invest more in technologies that will prevent fatal blowouts in the first place."

The House today passed two bills that would push for better oil spill response and safety technologies. The first – H.R. 2693, the Oil Pollution Research and Development Program Reauthorization – will strengthen research, development, and demonstration of innovative tools, methods, and technologies for oil spill cleanup. The second – H.R. 5716, the Safer Oil and Natural Gas Drilling Technology Research and Development Program – will launch a new R&D effort in new technologies to make deepwater drilling safer and prevent future oil spill disasters.

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