House panel approves U.S.-flag-only vessels on outer shelf

The following is the text of a press release issued by U.S. Rep. Elijah E. Cummings, D-Md.:
(WASHINGTON) — Congressman Elijah E. Cummings (MD-07) commended the passage by a voice vote of H.R. 5629, the Oil Spill Accountability and Environmental Protection Act of 2010 through the Transportation and Infrastructure Committee. Cummings also called for the bill to be considered on the floor of the House of Representatives as soon as possible.
“Our Committee and Subcommittee hearings on the Deepwater Horizon have proven one essential fact: the United States can do better and we must do better,†said Cummings. “I have been to the Gulf twice now. Each time, there was so much to see and learn about this tragedy. Having learned about the spill and its effects, I believe this bill will make changes our nation badly needs.

“This bill will give the President and the nation the chance to make sure that BP, and any future offshore energy company that destroys our environment, truly pay what they owe. It will make sure that safeguards are in effect so nothing like this ever happens again. Finally, it will make certain that our regulators and the Coast Guard have the opportunity to make sure those safeguards are installed and operating.â€

H.R. 5629 will make certain that only American-owned and American-crewed vessels are operating on the outer Continental Shelf, also ensuring they have been properly inspected and are operating under the control of a licensed master. Because they are owned and crewed by Americans, they will be subjected to U.S. safety requirements and their owners will pay U.S. taxes.

The legislation will give the Coast Guard and other government agencies both the regulations and personnel they need to do their jobs.

“In the past, though it is responsible for overseeing the response to spills from such facilities, the Coast Guard had no role in approving facilities’ response plans,†said Cummings. “We must close this gap. Also, as many of my colleagues have noted, for too long, the Coast Guard has had to do more with less. The Americanization of the U.S. Exclusive Economic Zone will certainly create new work responsibilities for the Coast Guard. We must ensure they are properly funded and staffed. This bill will do exactly that.â€

H.R. 5629 will also eliminate all liability caps for offshore facilities and requires these facilities to demonstrate financial responsibility of $1.5 billion.

Also, thanks to provisions championed by Chairman Cummings, this legislation reduces from 90 days to 45 days the amount of time a responsible party or guarantor has to settle claims presented to them. If claims remain unsettled at this time, they can then be presented to the Oil Spill Liability Trust Fund. By shortening this time frame, we can ensure that Americans – many of whom now are facing the loss of their livelihoods for the foreseeable future – can quickly get the help they need.
By Professional Mariner Staff