Democratic Rep. Edward Markey of Massachusetts called for the nation's oil response resources to be directed to the Gulf, expressing his concern for the sturdiness of current equipment as beleaguered officials in New Orleans brace for the possibility of a tropical storm this weekend amid the looming threat of hurricane season.
"I do believe that we should prepare for a worst-case scenario. We should assume that a tropical storm is going to come through the Gulf of Mexico and we should assume that we will need every single skimmer both domestically and internationally which is available. That we will need every piece of boom domestically and internationally and we will need every piece of protective gear for the workers that are, that is available..." Markey said Friday in an interview with Andrea Mitchell on MSNBC. "Admiral Thad Allen actually said that it could be a very fragile pipe down there. It has been traumatized. Right now neither Admiral Allen nor BP knows the exact condition of that pipe, but we know that it has gone through substantial trauma because of the accident...because of all the different events that have occurred over the last two and a half months and we just have to keep our fingers crossed and hope that this one final effort will be successful, although past history has shown that BP is making it up as they go along."
"His position from the very start was, if there are resources that other countries or other companies can bring to bear if it's appropriate, then they should be allowed to do it," Markey spokesman Eben Burnham-Snyder told the HuffPost Friday.
Moving all the country's oil response resources to the Gulf would require the cooperation of the Coast Guard and the president, and no Congressman can order an international response, but Markey is taking action where he can. On Friday Markey, the chairman of a House energy committee investigating the oil spill, introduced two bills that would divert big oil subsidies to scientists and get real safety response plans in Gulf.
The first bill, the Stop Oil Spills Act, would redirect $50 million a year from oil and gas royalty payments to fund Department of Energy grants for developing 21st-century oil safety and spill response technology research. It comes on the heels of BP CEO Tony Hayward's admission that his company did not have a "tool-kit" to respond to a sizable spill from a deepwater well. The effort has cost BP $2.35 billion so far.
"As the big oil companies have continued to push the limits to drill ultra-deep, it has become painfully clear that they have not kept pace with technology needed to make the drilling ultra-safe and to have any potential cleanup response be ultra-fast," said Markey in a statement Friday.
The bill calls for a repeal of current legislation, establishing federal subsidies for industry research of deepwater drilling technology, targeting development in blowout preventers and secondary control systems, and improving technologies to capture hydrocarbons that have escaped from offshore wells.
The second piece of legislation Markey introduced on Friday, the Better Oil Spill Response Plan Act of 2010, supplements the first with provisions to force oil companies within six months to provide the federal government with updated response plans, including estimates of the worst-case scenarios for oil and gas drilling. It also require the federal government to revise regulations for the oil and gas companies' facility and vessel response plans within the year, making sure that these response plans take new worst case scenarios into account and update, within nine months, their response plans with lessons learned from the Deepwater Horizon leak.
The bills will be referred to the Energy and Commerce Committee, though the likelihood of passage is unclear. "We expect that [these bills] will be part of the discussion, of some comprehensive legislative response, going forward," said Burnham-Snyder. "We hope people will consider them."
More immediately, however, Markey is calling for a relocation of current response resources to the Gulf. "We should just assume that and hope that we don't have to use it."