June 30, 2010

(Washington, D.C.) - U.S. Senator Jeanne Shaheen today announced that her legislation to improve our ability to respond to domestic oil spills has been passed by the Senate Environment and Public Works (EPW) Committee and will now go to the full Senate for consideration. With the BP oil spill continuing in the Gulf of Mexico for more than 70 days, there is a clear need to develop technology so that any future oil spills can be stopped and cleaned up quickly and effectively.  

"Oil companies are more focused on finding oil than cleaning up spills, and, unfortunately, we have learned that the industry is totally unprepared for the worst case scenario. This is not acceptable. We need updated technology so that we can effectively respond, especially to spills from deep water and ultra deep water wells," said Shaheen. "This legislation would improve our existing federal oil spill research and development programs, and ensures a dedicated source of funding by making oil companies pay for it. I am happy the EPW Committee took swift action on this issue, and I'm hopeful that the Senate will support this bill so that we can prevent future disasters of this magnitude."

As reported by the Committee, the Shaheen bill would improve the existing oil spill research and development program established under the Oil Pollution Act of 1990 (OPA) and provide a dedicated source of funding paid for by royalties, rents and bonuses from oil and gas development on federal lands onshore and offshore.  The improved research and development program would be focused on research development, technology demonstration, and risk assessment to address issues associated with the prevention, detection, and response to oil spills, especially in light of the shortcomings identified by the Deepwater Horizon spill.

The bill would also establish an independent Science and Technology Advisory Board to partner with the National Academies of Science to provide scientific and technical advice to the R&D program.  The Advisory Board and the Interagency Committee on Oil Pollution Research would be directed to create a Research and Technology Plan to identify research needs and opportunities, propose areas of focus for the R&D program, and establish program priorities. Shaheen's provisions would establish Research Centers of Excellence: the Center for Response Technologies for Deepwater, Ultra Deepwater and Extreme Environment Oil Spills, and Center for Oil Spill Response and Restoration to focus research efforts in these critical areas. 

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