On Wednesday, an amendment authored by Rep. Lois Capps, D-Santa Barbara, to increase funding for local response and preparedness training for inland oil spills was voted on by the full House of Representatives.
The importance of robust spill response preparation and training was highlighted by the response to the May 19 Plains oil spill along the Gaviota Coast.
The amendment was offered to the FY 2016 Department of Interior, Environment, and Related Agencies Appropriations Act (H.R. 2822), but failed on a largely party-line vote.
The Capps amendment would have increased funding for the Environmental Protection Agency’s Inland Oil Spill Program, which is responsible for preventing, preparing for and responding to inland oil spills, by $5.4 million to match President Obama’s FY 2016 budget request.
This increase would have been offset by an equal reduction applied to the Bureau of Ocean Energy Management (BOEM) budget for new offshore oil and gas leasing.
“We should not be expanding oil drilling unless we are properly prepared for the spills that will inevitably occur,” Capps said. “The funding levels for EPA spill preparation programs are dangerously low, and I am disappointed the majority chose not to support this commonsense amendment to help ensure local communities have the training and resources they need to prepare for and respond to oil spills. I will continue to look for ways we can work together to strengthen our regulation of this dirty and dangerous business, so that we can protect our environment and our communities when spills happen.”
Capps recently spoke in support of her amendment on the House floor. The text of her statement is below.
Floor Statement — Capps Amendment to H.R. 2822
Mr. Chair, drilling for and transporting oil and gas is a dirty and dangerous business. There is no disputing that.
No matter what assurances are given by the oil industry, spills happen. And they will continue to happen as long as we depend on fossil fuels for our energy needs.
Sadly, my constituents in Santa Barbara, Calif., are far too familiar with this reality.
Just over a month ago, on May 19, over 100,000 gallons of crude oil spilled from the Plains All American Pipeline along the Gaviota Coast.
The oil spilled down a hill and into the ocean, eventually spreading thick, black tar along nearly 100 miles of coastline.
This was a unique spill in that it impacted both land and ocean, requiring both the EPA and Coast Guard to respond and lead the cleanup effort.
When it comes to oil spills, the damage gets worse by the minute, so ensuring spill response teams are properly trained and prepared to respond quickly is essential to minimizing the impacts.
This is precisely why the EPA has the Inland Oil Spill Programs.
The EPA uses this funding to prevent, prepare for, and respond to oil spills associated with the more than 600,000 oil storage facilities that the agency regulates.
The EPA’s oil program also provides oil spill response resources and training for states, localities, and tribal governments.
Despite its scope and importance, this program has been seriously underfunded for years.
And HR 2822 only makes things worse by funding this program at nearly 25 percent below the President’s request.
My amendment would simply increase funding for this program by 5.4 million dollars to match the President’s requested amount of 23.4 million dollars for FY 2016.
This modest increase in funding will help ensure EPA can do its job and help protect communities like mine from the impacts of oil spills.
This funding increase would be offset by reducing the Conventional Energy account at the Bureau of Ocean Energy Management — or BOEM — by an equal amount.
And I want to be clear — this funding reduction for BOEM is intended to target the funding used for new offshore oil and gas leasing — preserving funding for safety operations and environmental assessments.
The new 5-year offshore oil and gas program being drafted by BOEM calls for 14 potential lease sales, including in some new areas off the East Coast.
Expanding drilling while cutting funding for spill cleanup is incredibly irresponsible.
Mr. Chair, I have spent my entire career in Congress fighting to stop offshore drilling because I firmly believe the risks outweigh the benefits.
And I know the current Majority does not agree with me on this.
But I hope we can at least all agree that we should not be expanding oil drilling unless we are properly prepared for the spills that will inevitably occur.
As long as we drill for oil, there will be oil spills. And the economic and ecological risks of these spills only increase when the oil is extracted offshore.
While the Coast Guard is responsible for responding to offshore spills, the recent spill in my district shows that offshore drilling can also have onshore impacts, especially for coastal communities like those I represent.
The oil that spilled from the Plains All American Pipeline was extracted just a few miles offshore in federal waters. It was then pumped onshore to a holding facility and through the pipeline that ruptured.
This offshore oil spilled from the pipeline, down a hillside, onto the beach and back into the ocean [under which it was extracted].
Drilling and spill cleanup are inextricably linked. The least we can do is ensure the EPA has the resources it needs to ensure spills are quickly and properly cleaned up when they inevitably happen.
That is preciously what my amendment seeks to achieve, and I urge my colleagues to support it.
I reserve the balance of my time.
— Chris Meagher is a press secretary for Rep. Lois Capps.