Testimony of Marilyn Heiman before the Committee on Energy and Natural Resources, U.S. Senate

Speaker: Marilyn Heiman

Director, Offshore Energy Reform Project

Venue: U.S. Senate

My name is Marilyn Heiman and I direct the Offshore Energy Reform Project and the US Arctic Program at the Pew Environment Group.  I have 27 years of experience working on oil and gas policy issues. I served as Natural Resources Special Assistant to the Governor of Alaska and later as the Senior Advisor to the Secretary of Interior for Alaska, during the Clinton Administration. I also served as staff to the Exxon Valdez Oil Spill Commission.

As with the Exxon Valdez oil spill complacency by the government, industry and citizens appears to be one of the central causes of the BP Deep Water Horizon disaster. There has been a systematic breakdown in the safety and management by industry of offshore drilling operations and a breakdown in the government's oversight of these operations. Regulators accepted assurances that offshore drilling technology had become so advanced that a blowout was highly unlikely, if not impossible, and citizens had few tools with which to verify those assurances.  We did not do what was necessary to prevent a catastrophic oil spill, and the Gulf and its communities will suffer for decades as a result.

For all these reasons, the President's decision to suspend offshore drilling in deep water and the Arctic show a great deal of leadership. New problems and shortcuts associated with the BP Deep Water Horizon operation are emerging daily.  It is very responsible to wait for the Presidential Commission to make their recommendations prior to proceeding with any more drilling in deep water, the Arctic Ocean or any new areas of the OCS.