Apr 29 2010

Shelby Requests Defense Department Assistance to Protect Coast from Oil Spill

U.S. Senator Richard Shelby (R-Ala.), a senior member of the Defense Appropriations Subcommittee, sent the following letter to Secretary of Defense Robert Gates to request immediate assistance to protect the Gulf Coast from the oil spill predicted to make landfall this weekend.

“New information indicating that 5,000 barrels of oil are pouring into the Gulf of Mexico, threatening coastal Alabama’s ecosystem, makes it all the more important that we act immediately to protect the Gulf Coast,” said Shelby. “It is my hope that federal, state, and local officials will continue to work closely together to do everything possible to minimize the negative ecological and economic impacts to our Gulf Coast communities.”

Senator Shelby continues to work with BP, Transocean, relevant federal agencies, and other Congressional members to ensure the response is cohesive and consistent.  In addition, Senator Shelby will work to continue interagency coordination to adequately respond to the immediate and long term effects of the spill and ensure accountability. 

The full text of the letter is below. 

April 29, 2010


The Honorable Robert Gates
Secretary of Defense
1000 Defense Pentagon
Washington, D.C. 20301-1000

Dear Secretary Gates,

I am writing to request the Department of Defense’s immediate intervention and assistance to protect the Gulf Coast from the oncoming oil predicted to make landfall this weekend.

Initial reports about the oil rig explosion downplayed the significance of the threat to the Gulf Coast as a minor and containable incident.  Yesterday the Coast Guard reported that the rig was leaking 1,000 barrels a day.  Today, we discover that 5,000 barrels a day are pouring into the Gulf of Mexico – five times more than originally estimated.  While we all hope the risk to the ecosystem and economy can be mitigated, we must prepare for the impending threat.  If we do not proactively respond to this situation with significant resources, this could turn into a catastrophic disaster.

The Department of Defense supports state, local, and other federal agencies, such as the Coast Guard, in response to emergencies including oil spills.  In the case of the Exxon Valdez oil spill in 1989, the Department of Defense supported the cleanup by providing personnel, skimmers, modified dredges, Dracones, Zodiak boats and other equipment and support. Given this historic precedence, it is fully within the Department’s role to assist the Coast Guard now with trying to contain the oil spill in the Gulf.
I am requesting your immediate intervention to provide the necessary Department of Defense resources to the Gulf Coast to mitigate the severely negative impacts that the spill will have when the oil reaches the coast.  Advanced planning and preparation will help us adequately deal with this situation.

I appreciate your assistance in this extremely important situation.



                                                                                                Richard Shelby


cc: Admiral Thad Allen, Commandant, US Coast Guard