Updated: Hoyer asks Obama for East Coast oil spill summit
UPDATED: House Democratic Leader Steny Hoyer of Maryland wants President Barack Obama to convene a White House summit soon as part of government planning for the possible spread of the Gulf oil spill to Atlantic coast states. However, there was no immediate indication from 1600 Pennsylvania Avenue that his request would be granted.
Hoyer noted that, with hurricane season under way and large volumes of oil continuing to pour into the Gulf, the administration should directly inform officials in East Coast states about how it intends to cope with any oil that might find it way into the Atlantic.
Depending on weather conditions, it is possible for oil from the BP spill to catch a ride on the gulf stream, which hugs the southeastern Atlantic coast before heading out to sea.
"Elected officials representing the East Coast, from the Chesapeake Bay, to the beaches of the Carolinas, to Florida’s Atlantic coastline, remain deeply concerned about the impact of oil both within the Gulf ecosystem and within the fragile, ecologically rich and economically important resources they represent," Hoyer wrote.
"Information regarding whether the expanding oil slick and plumes have entered the loop current need to be shared with Atlantic Coast states and local governments, and the federal government should fully understand the resource needs of jurisdictions not yet responding to the spill should oil spread to those locations," he added.
On Thursday, a panel of administration officials will brief Hoyer and other members of the Maryland congressional delegation on the potential impact of the spill on the Bay and the state's ocean beaches, as well as the safety of seafood sold to Marylanders.
The White House did not react directly to Hoyer's request but an official pointed out that there have been three calls with Atlantic coast governors and state officials, to update them on the spill's trajectory.
There is also no evidence, at this point, from the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration's twice-daily tracking operation, that the spill has entered the loop current in the Gulf, a pre-requisite to bringing the oil up the East Coast. However, those projections only go out three days into the future.
"We are committed to working in close partnerships with state and local authorities and ensuring that they have the resources they need to meet the threat from this oil spill. Every day, the White House works with state officials in the impacted gulf states on the ongoing response efforts to the BP Deepwater Horizon oil spill," Moira Mack, a White House spokeswoman, said in an emailed response.
"In addition to these daily efforts, we have held three calls with the Atlantic Coast Governors and state officials to provide updates on the spill response and trajectory and address state concerns. The bottom line is that we are all working in concert not only to stop the spread of the oil but also to restore any impacted community," she added. "We will continue to engage Governors and state officials moving forward to ensure states are armed with all the information they need."
Complete text of the Hoyer letter follows the jump.
The Honorable Barack Obama
The White House
1600 Pennsylvania Ave. NW
Washington, DC 20500
Dear Mr. President,
I write regarding the on-going Deepwater Horizon oil spill. Since the initial explosion, your personal focus has correctly been to contain the environmental damage, and respond to the devastating personal and economic consequences of this tragedy within the Gulf Region. I share your desire to ensure that the responsible parties put a stop to this spill, and efforts can be shifted toward much needed recovery.
On May 12, 2010, you wrote Speaker of the House Nancy Pelosi that, from day one of the spill, you have directed your Administration to prepare for a worst-case scenario. In my view, such preparation should include a White House led summit with East Coast governors and local officials in the very near term. With onset of hurricane season, and reported estimates of the size of the spill more than doubling recently, it is my hope that you will hear directly from officials in my home state of Maryland and all along the Atlantic Coast about their levels of preparedness and information needs should oil move out of the Gulf region. Elected officials representing the East Coast, from the Chesapeake Bay, to the beaches of the Carolinas, to Florida’s Atlantic coastline, remain deeply concerned about the impact of oil both within the Gulf ecosystem and within the fragile, ecologically rich and economically important resources they represent. Information regarding whether the expanding oil slick and plumes have entered the loop current need to be shared with Atlantic Coast states and local governments, and the federal government should fully understand the resource needs of jurisdictions not yet responding to the spill should oil spread to those locations.
I know you share my desire to end and contain this spill as soon as possible, and that it is difficult to think that all the pain endured in the Gulf Coast thus far is not the worst outcome we as a nation could imagine. I believe though that the American people want us to plan ahead and think through difficult scenarios as we seek to avert them.
Steny H. Hoyer