“The BP oil spill in the Gulf of Mexico is a true economic and ecological catastrophe -- and the American public is rightfully demanding meaningful action to clean up this mess and to prevent a future disaster.
The White House today has taken crucial steps to halt new offshore drilling, until federal regulators know exactly what went wrong in the BP oil spill and can implement necessary reforms to prevent a future catastrophe. This includes a six-month extension of the moratorium in the Gulf, and cancellation of lease sales for the Virginia coast and planned exploration in the Arctic slated for this summer. The Administration also announced that it will suspend operations on 33 existing deepwater drilling operations.
This is welcome news, but I will be watching closely for further details and to make sure the Administration holds up its end of the bargain. I was extremely disappointed when I learned that MMS approved as many as 19 environmental waivers for gulf drilling projects and at least 17 drilling permits since the Deepwater Horizon explosion, despite the existing Presidential moratorium.
For the past 38 days, the nation has watched in frustration as more than 19 million gallons or more of crude oil have spewed out of a leaking wellhead a mile below the ocean surface, the largest spill in American history.
A new Inspector General report revealed that MMS officials conducted faulty inspections, accepted improper gifts, formed unethical relationships with Big Oil employees, used illegal drugs, and watched pornography on government computers.
As Chairman of the Senate Interior Appropriations Subcommittee, I will be holding a hearing on the proposed reorganization of MMS on June 16. It’s clear to me that the Administration needs to completely overhaul all operational, environmental and safety policies and procedures for offshore drilling -- particularly in ultra-deep waters, where it is virtually impossible to respond to emergencies and equipment failures.”