Bennet Signs on to Bill to Prevent Dangerous Dispersants

While It Took More Than 100 Days to Come This Close to Stopping Leak, Congress Has Still Not Acted on Important Measures

Washington, DC – As the cement cap for the gushing oil well in the Gulf of Mexico near completion, more than 100 days after the explosion of the Deepwater Horizon rig, U.S. Senator Michael Bennet has signed on to an effort to require better testing, approval and disclosure of the health effects of dispersants used in response to an oil spill under the National Contingency Plan.

The Safe Dispersants Act, which Bennet is cosponsoring, was introduced by Sen. Frank Lautenberg (D-N.J.).

“It will take months, even years, to assess the economic and environmental damage that this spill has caused, but there are lessons we can take away right now to help prevent, contain and safely clean up future spills,” Bennet said. “The Safe Dispersants Act will ensure that the measures taken to clean up spills don’t make an already deplorable problem worse. We owe it to our coastal communities, which are still reeling from the current spill, to do what we can to make sure that spill clean ups are done responsibly and transparently.”

Oil dispersants are chemicals that are applied to an oil spill in order to break down large volumes of oil into smaller droplets.  Following the April 20th Deepwater Horizon oil rig explosion, BP almost immediately began using chemical dispersants to break down large amounts of surface and subsurface oil.  However, the chemical dispersants applied in the Gulf were not required to undergo long-term health or environmental testing and the exact ingredient concentrations of these dispersants were never made available to the public.  

More than  1.8 million gallons of dispersants have been applied in the Gulf since April 20th, yet the EPA just recently completed a full range of basic safety tests. EPA Administrator Lisa Jackson has testified that the law should be changed to require more robust advance testing of chemical dispersants and disclosure of ingredients and health and safety data. 

The Safe Dispersants Act would take a common-sense approach to regulating the use of oil spill dispersants.  It would:

  •   Require testing on a wide range of acute and long-term environmental and health effects of specific chemical dispersants before they could be added to an approved products list; 
  •   Ban the use of dispersants that cannot be proven to be better for the environment and health than natural or mechanical removal of oil; and
  •   Require public disclosure of all chemical dispersant ingredients and ingredient concentrations in certain circumstances.

Senators Cardin (D-Md.), Mikulski (D-Md.), Kerry (D-Mass.), and Bill Nelson (D-Fla.) have cosponsored the bill, which has been endorsed by more than 30 environmental and health groups, including the League of Conservation Voters, the Sierra Club, the National Resources Defense Council, the Breast Cancer Fund and the Autism Society.

Bennet is also supporting efforts to ensure that big oil companies like BP are liable for all economic damages resulting from oil spills and that the Presidential appointed commission investigating the spill has subpoena power.  Both bills have been blocked by a minority of Senators looking to score political points while oil continues to gush into the Gulf of Mexico.