Rep. Markey says Hurricane Isaac necessitates update on oil spill cleanup

Rep. Edward Markey (D-Mass.) wants two federal agencies to explain how they will address lingering oil contamination from the 2010 explosion of the BP Deepwater Horizon drilling rig.

Markey told the heads of the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) and the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) in letters sent Friday that Hurricane Isaac makes the Gulf of Mexico cleanup effort imperative. He said as much as 1 million barrels worth of oil from the BP incident could be tied up in sediments and water that Isaac pushed ashore.

ADVERTISEMENT
“As the storm passed any oil carried by the winds and storm surge could be pushed deeper into the marshlands and potentially back onto land, re-igniting the potential for this oil to impact the plants and animals that thrive in the swamps and marshes,” Markey wrote EPA Administrator Lisa Jackson and NOAA Administrator Jane Lubchenco.

Markey, the top Democrat on the House Natural Resources Committee, raised the cleanup effort questions because Isaac is the first hurricane to hit the Gulf of Mexico since the 2010 oil spill. Estimates say the 2010 spill, considered the largest in U.S. history, released up to 5 million barrels of oil into the Gulf.

Markey asked EPA and NOAA to respond by Sept. 14 as to whether smaller storms had caused oil to resurface, which federal agencies were involved in environmental assessments of the region and what the agencies plan to do about oil that reemerges.

Markey has often raised concerns about the potential environmental damage from offshore drilling. He has opposed several GOP-backed efforts to expand the practice, often citing threats to water quality and aquatic life.

In July, Markey pushed his Republican colleagues to hold a hearing on a preliminary report from the U.S. Chemical Safety Board that found “multiple safety management system deficiencies.” The independent federal agency found the oil industry and regulators viewed offshore drilling safety too narrowly by de-emphasizing the possibility of a disaster like the BP incident.

Republicans, however, have forged ahead with calls for expanded offshore and onshore drilling in federally controlled lands. Increasing fossil fuel drilling has become the focal point of the party’s energy policy.