House Committee on Education and Labor
U.S. House of Representatives

Republicans
Rep. Howard P. “Buck” McKeon
Ranking Member

Fiscally responsible reforms for students, workers and retirees.

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NEWSROOM

Committee Statement

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
June 23, 2010

CONTACT: Alexa Marrero
or Brian Newell
(202) 225-4527

Kline Statement: Hearing on Worker Health and Safety from the Oil Rig to the Shoreline

Thank you Mr. Chairman. Welcome to our witnesses and thank you all for your service to the country and the people of the Gulf Coast during this difficult time.  

It has been two months since an explosion onboard the Deepwater Horizon oil rig claimed the lives of 11 workers and injured 17 more. Sadly, this catastrophic event 50 miles from the shoreline continues to devastate the businesses, communities, and families residing along the Gulf Coast. Our thoughts are with the victims’ families and the people of the Gulf Coast as they fight to preserve their way of life.    

BP bears total responsibility, including full financial liability, for this tragedy and they must be held accountable for the loss of life, the damage inflicted on the local economy, and the devastation of the area’s vast natural resources. I am pleased an escrow fund, managed by an independent third party, has been created to mitigate the terrible and growing impact being felt by the Gulf states and an untold number of American citizens.  

While not squarely within this committee’s jurisdiction, every member of Congress has an obligation to ensure BP provides every individual who has a legitimate claim with the just and timely compensation they and their families deserve. 

This committee does, however, have oversight responsibilities concerning workplace safety. Today, we are here to discuss the safety of oil rig workers, as well as the workers sent to the scene to clean up this environmental disaster. As of June 14, it was estimated between 40 million and 115 million gallons of oil have spilled into the Gulf of Mexico. And unlike some other oil in the Gulf, the oil that continues gushing 5,000 feet below sea level is a heavy crude and easily emulsified, giving the cleanup crews a monumental task. As Ed Overton, an environmental scientist with Louisiana State University has stated, "If I had to pick a bad oil, I'd put this right up there.” 

As we learned from recent events, including the aftermath of Hurricane Katrina, too often the hazards to workers’ safety are not fully understood at the time of the crisis. We must take every precaution and nothing for granted in the BP oil spill, recognizing that in an unprecedented disaster such as this one, we are learning as we go. Response workers must have every resource necessary to move quickly and in a manner that does not compromise the workers’ own health and safety.  

Numerous federal agencies, each operating with their own mission and array of officials, rules, and regulations, have descended on the Gulf to assist in the cleanup and investigate the causes of this disaster. Yet we know from experience that poorly organized federal bureaucracies can be clumsy, delay response time, and even impede efforts underway at the state and local levels.  

There are a number of federal agencies sharing regulatory responsibility, involving both the safety of crews working on the rigs and the teams cleaning up the beaches. State officials and individual citizens have expressed frustration as they attempt to navigate the federal response process.  

It is my hope today’s hearing will help sort this all out and provide a clearer picture of how industry, states, and the federal government are ensuring workplace safety on oil rigs and in the event of an oil spill. We will also look for answers to a number of important questions, such as whether federal regulators are properly balancing worker safety and the need for a fast response effort, and whether or not BP is doing everything in its power to ensure the safety of workers struggling around the clock to rescue the Gulf Coast from this unimaginable disaster.  

Mr. Chairman, as a nation we mourn the loss of life and livelihood in the Gulf region. Now is the time to ask tough questions so we can move forward in a manner that protects all workers and restores to the people of the Gulf Coast their cherished way of life. 

Thank you for holding this hearing, Mr. Chairman, and again, thank you to the witnesses for being with us this morning. 

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