WASHINGTON, DC -- U.S. Congressman Bart Stupak, chairman of the House Energy and Commerce Subcommittee on Oversight and Investigations, issued the following statement regarding the Oversight and Investigations May 12 hearing on the Deepwater Horizon drilling rig explosion and oil spill:
"BP has a long history with the Oversight and Investigations Subcommittee. We have investigated several spills in BP’s North Slope, Alaska drilling, including the 2006 spill that resulted in more than 200,000 gallons of oil leaking into the tundra. We investigated BP’s 2005 Texas City refinery explosion that killed 15 and injured more than 170. BP’s latest tragedy at the Deepwater Horizon drilling rig in the Gulf has resulted in 11 missing crew members and thousands of barrels of oil a day flowing into the Gulf waters, threatening some of our most valuable seafood fishing grounds, wetlands and tourism.
"Oversight and Investigations staff has been following the events and developments of this tragedy closely since the April 20 oil rig explosion and the ensuing oil spill. Right now this spill is at risk to be one of worst environmental disasters in U.S. history. I look forward to our Oversight and Investigations hearing next Wednesday, May 12, where we will hear from company officials and discuss what may have happened the day of the explosion as well as what efforts are being made to minimize the environmental effects of the spill.
"One area that we will investigate closely is whether the blowout preventer to be used in case of a spill at the Deepwater Horizon drilling rig had been tested and properly maintained for use at this deep water drilling facility. We also are looking into why remote control acoustic shut off switches, commonly used in offshore drilling elsewhere as a backup safety measure, were not utilized at the Deepwater Horizon rig. We will ask what steps were taken to test emergency response procedures and technologies should an accidental release of gas or oil at the drilling rig occur and what emergency plans were developed and shared with appropriate federal and state agencies in the event a spill occurred.
"Some of the techniques currently being used to contain the oil spill have never been used before in this deep of water -- we want to make sure all of the appropriate steps were taken to test these methods at these depths and to have a comprehensive response plan in place before a spill occurred.
"This is the first of what will likely be several hearings into what went wrong on April 20 and the following days. The answers to these questions will be vital to putting in place protections necessary to prevent a tragedy like this from happening again in the future.
"Full committee Chairman Henry Waxman, Energy and Environment Subcommittee Chairman Ed Markey, and I continue to monitor the situation closely. As we work to find answers to the critical questions that remain surrounding this potential environmental and economic disaster, our thoughts continue to be with the families of the crew members who were aboard the rig at the time of the explosion and the thousands who have mobilized to help contain and clean this spill."