Tuesday, April 20, 2010, is a day that will be forever etched in our hearts and minds. On that day, 11 people lost their lives, and we watched an environmental tragedy unfold that profoundly impacted Louisiana and its people. Five years later, we are still feeling the effects of the Deepwater Horizon disaster. These hardships have made us stronger as we continuously work to improve our state.
I am a proud advocate of offshore energy production; it is a crucial part of the “all-of-the-above” energy strategy that I have fought for since I began representing Louisiana’s 1st Congressional District. Through increased offshore production, our energy will be more affordable, our economy will see more jobs created, and Louisiana’s coast will have more funds dedicated to restoration efforts.
Since 2008, I have had the honor of bringing dozens of my House colleagues to the deep waters of the Gulf of Mexico to experience firsthand how energy is produced offshore. Earlier this month, eight members representing districts from the Northeast, West Coast, Midwest and Gulf Coast, as well as political perspectives from both sides of the aisle, joined me for the seventh annual tour, which proves that maximizing our energy potential is a bipartisan issue of national interest.
In order to maximize the benefits from this sector of American energy production, proper safety standards must be in place to protect workers and the environment. Since 2010’s Deepwater Horizon tragedy, the oil and gas industry has advanced standards for safety systems, well integrity, blowout preventers and communication among companies. The industry realized it had a problem and took proactive steps to increase safety standards. All of this took place long before President Barack Obama’s administration introduced new offshore drilling rules just a few days ago. While the administration dragged its feet on proposed new blowout preventer rules, the industry continued to innovate — despite the federal government’s failure to keep pace with these advancements — to better protect against another spill.
One example of the safety culture that now pervades Gulf of Mexico exploration is that each employee on a rig has the ability to shut down the entire operation if they see something unsafe on board, no questions asked. The offshore industry’s swift action to advance safety technology stands in stark contrast to the Obama administration’s harmful moratorium followed by years of inaction.
Equally important as the safety standards on board offshore platforms is the preservation of our wetlands, which are crucial to our flood protection and America’s economy.
Since coming to Congress, I have aggressively taken action to reverse decades of coastal erosion, proudly fighting to make the restoration of Louisiana’s coastline a national priority. I will continue fighting for energy production and coastal restoration as a new member of House leadership.
I was proud to lead the effort in the House to pass the RESTORE Act into law. The dedication of 80 percent of Clean Water Act fines levied on BP to the Gulf Coast is one of the most significant actions taken in Congress to restore our coast in Louisiana’s history, and we must not let these funds be squandered. It is imperative that this money be used for critical coastal restoration projects and not be raided for unrelated purposes.
I have been clear to my colleagues in Congress and in Louisiana that the Clean Water Act fines should not be hijacked for state budget gimmicks in Baton Rouge or for slush fund spending on unrelated projects.
It is my hope that we can use the fifth anniversary of this catastrophe to reflect upon the people of Louisiana who are still struggling from its aftermath, while also highlighting the tremendous strides Louisiana and the Gulf Coast region have made as we fight to protect our culture and our way of life.
U.S. Rep. Steve Scalise represents Louisiana’s 1st Congressional District.