Thursday, September 2, 2010

Senator Nelson & DeepWater Horizon

September 1, 2010

Dear [Dredd],

I heard from nearly 18,000 Floridians who responded to my recent survey stemming from the Deepwater Horizon oil spill. The action wanted by the most people was getting Congress to act quickly on measures designed to ease our dependence on oil.

I couldn’t agree more. Our government must enact a national program to transition us from petroleum to alternative and synthetic fuels--and we need to act with the same urgency that led us to reach the moon within the 1960s. We also need more solar, wind and thermal energy, and safer nuclear power.

The next most important thing for respondents was lifting the cap on damages companies owe when an oil spill happens. I’ve already proposed legislation to raise the cap from its current $75 million level to at least $10 billion. I’ve also called for a congressional inquiry into BP’s plans to use steep losses from the oil spill to cut its U.S. tax bill by $10 billion, which would amount to about half what they have pledged to aid Gulf coast victims of the catastrophe.

Investigating and evaluating the long-term effects of oil beneath the surface of the Gulf was a priority for 18 percent of the respondents. I introduced the Subsea Hydrocarbon Imagery and Planning Act of 2010 to require the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) to come up with a comprehensive plan to find and assess the environmental and health risks posed by submerged oil, gas, and other toxic substances. I’ve called for a federal investigation on the widespread use of dispersants, because the toxic brew they’ve created could result in greater environmental troubles than if the oil had been allowed to sit on the surface until it was collected. And, I’ve met with marine scientists at our state universities who are conducting research to find out if the oil and dispersants are affecting tiny micro-organisms that are the foundation of the food chain. I will press BP to pay for more of that research.

Fifteen percent of those who answered the survey emphasized the importance of tax breaks for small businesses hurt by the spill and workers displaced by it. Another 15 percent want to keep oil companies away from states like Florida that rely on tourism, fishing, and beach-front economies, and cannot afford the risk that accompanies drilling close to the coast. And 11 percent are in favor of a criminal investigation that would put those most responsible for the spill behind bars.

Of course, not everyone agreed about keeping oil drilling away from Florida. For instance, one person wrote, “I just got your survey regarding the oil spill and my priority isn't listed. My priority is to drill, drill, drill.” Another wrote, “I'm all in favor of drilling anywhere and everywhere there is oil to be had. That includes in ANWAR and off the coast of Florida.”

No one is advocating we cease all domestic drilling. In fact, our government already has leased 68 million new acres to the oil companies – but, they haven't even sunk the first well. No matter what anybody says, the U.S. has only three percent of the world’s reserves, while it uses nearly one-fourth of the world’s supply. In other words, we cannot drill our way out of the energy problem. That’s why the answer lies in alternatives to oil.

Your feedback is important and helpful to me as we continue to deal with the effects of the Deepwater explosion and spill. Thank you for sharing your opinions with me.

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