Apr 15 2002

INTERIOR DEPARTMENT CREATES SUBCOMMITTEE TO STUDY MERCURY IN THE GULF IN RESPONSE TO SHELBY REQUEST

In response to a request from U.S. Senator Richard C. Shelby (R-AL), the Department of Interior has announced the formation of a Subcommittee on Mercury in the Gulf of Mexico. In February, Senator Shelby called on U.S. Environmental Protection Agency Administrator Christine Todd Whitman and the U.S. Department of Interior's Acting Director of Minerals Management Service, Lucy Querques Dennett, to ensure that oil and gas platforms operated in the Gulf of Mexico do not harm the local environment.

In a letter to Administrator Whitman and Director Dennett, Senator Shelby requested information regarding the agencies' efforts to monitor methylmercury levels in the Gulf of Mexico. Senator Shelby also called upon the agencies to continue their efforts to ensure that oil and gas operations are not harming the environment or increasing levels of methylmercury in the Gulf of Mexico that may affect fish populations.

"Given the extensive commercial fishing activities in the Gulf, I believe it is important to reassure the citizens of Alabama that our fish are safe to consume," said Shelby. "The health and safety of Alabama citizens are of the utmost importance."

In response to Senator Shelby's request, the Interior Department has announced the formation of a Subcommittee on Mercury in the Gulf of Mexico. The subcommittee will independently review and evaluate information and provide guidance on what actions the Department of Interior's Minerals Management Service should take. The findings of this subcommittee should be available by June 2002.

"I am encouraged by this commitment to a subcommittee that will focus exclusively on this issue," added Shelby. "It is vital that we detect any current problems resulting from oil and gas activities in the area, and that we confirm that Gulf residents are not at risk."

A response from the Environmental Protection Agency is forthcoming.