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Madam Speaker, the recent explosion of the BP Deepwater Horizon oil rig in the Gulf of Mexico has raised legitimate concerns regarding safety and environmental standards of deepwater, offshore drilling. My thoughts and prayers go out to the families that lost loved ones in this tragic accident. Eleven individuals were killed.

Safety and responsible operating procedures must always come first, particularly when human lives are at risk. It is important to reevaluate and address our safety procedures and hold those responsible for the accident accountable.

At the same time, I believe the Federal Government has the obligation to make informed and responsible decisions regarding offshore drilling. We have to differentiate between the causes of this accident and other responsible and safe drilling operations.

Our primary purpose right now should be to stop the leak and determine the cause of this tragedy, and the Federal Government needs to simultaneously address the cleanup. We need the full cooperation of Federal, State, and local agencies, as well as private industry, to immediately address the cleanup and containment situation in the Gulf of Mexico.

In my opinion, there has not been sufficient urgency to do this thus far. Cleanup remains inadequate and is still bogged down in redtape from Federal bureaucrats. This bureaucratic response from Interior Secretary Salazar has been to shut down all new offshore drilling permits, including both shallow water and deepwater offshore drilling.

However, shallow water drilling is fundamentally different from deepwater drilling. It has operated safely in the Gulf of Mexico for over 60 years, yet this prohibition treats both the same. This drilling in shallow water is primarily for natural gas. The oil remaining in these reservoirs has largely been produced, so it is at lower pressure than the oil found at deeper depths. And unlike deepwater drilling, the blowout preventers in shallow water drilling are located above the surface, not thousands of feet below on the ocean floor.

I recently joined our congressional neighbor in Louisiana, Congressman CHARLIE BOUSTANY, and 40 other additional colleagues in sending a bipartisan letter urging Secretary Salazar to resume permitting for the shallow water drilling.

The unintended consequences of this wide range ban are far-reaching. The blanket ban has the potential to cause more widespread economic damage in the gulf coast and the entire United States.

The devastating effects of the oil spill go beyond waters and wetlands. For southeast Texas and southwestern Louisiana, our lives are intertwined with the oil and gas industry in the Gulf of Mexico. Over 180,000 Americans are directly employed in the oil and gas and mining industries along the gulf coast, and the prospect for severe economic hardship is very real. And that doesn't include the countless people that make their living in fishing and restaurant and tourism-related industries. Many of these out-of-work fishermen stand ready to help with the cleanup but are denied the ability to help because it is stalled down in Federal redtape.

I think we should have an-all-of-the-above energy policy, one that I believe we can achieve with the highest safety and environmental standards. Our Nation and our economy, however, run on fuel supplied by the oil-producing sector of the Gulf of Mexico. We cannot simply shut off the spigot and expect this Nation to run on nothing. Meanwhile, we need to clean up the mess and find out what caused this tragedy in the Gulf of Mexico.

And that's just the way it is.

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