Health Study Amendment to the Pipeline Safety Bill, April 20, 2016
Statement of Rep. André Carson
Carson Health Study Amendment to the
Pipeline Safety Bill, H.R. 4937
Mr. Chairman, I’m offering this amendment to provide better data about the health impacts of oil spills. I commend Chairman Shuster and Ranking Member DeFazio, and Rail Chairman Denham and Ranking Member Capuano on their work to bring us a good compromise bill. I’m pleased with the improved information to pipeline communities, especially providing the Safety Data Sheets and grants for public awareness efforts. But I believe we need more information.
The Carson amendment requires the National Academy of Sciences, one of the most preeminent scientific organizations in the country, to specifically study the short- and long-term human health and ecological effects of pipeline oil spills. My amendment would have the Academy report back to our Committee within two years of the passage of this bill.
No pun intended, but we need to dig a little deeper. We need more information on possible health risks from spilled tar sands oil and new blends, such as “diluted bitumen” [pronounced buy-TWO-men] compared to the risks of standard crude oil.
I’m raising this point because, too often, people confuse the effects of crude oil spills, such as BP’s in the Gulf Coast, with other spills of diluted bitumen. Tar sands are more toxic, require more pressure for transport through pipes, and if spilled, will settle into riverbeds contaminating the water supply for years. Let’s not forget that Americans are still suffering the effects of the huge tar sands spill that occurred in 2010, contaminating the Kalamazoo River which flows into Lake Michigan.
As a Hoosier, and a representative of the Great Lakes Region, I’m concerned about risks to our rivers and streams from oil spills, both from pipelines or rail accidents. We need to know details about the effects on human health, crops, and wildlife. For example, the National Resources Defense Council has published its research noting the potential adverse long-term health effects of cardiovascular and respiratory ailments among others. I’d like to submit this report for the record, and I recognize this report is just one view. We need a comprehensive review from the best scientists available, like the non-partisan National Academy of Sciences. That’s why I’m offering this amendment to have the Academy review existing data and also new data, and then report their assessment back to this Committee.
In closing, I’d like to say that as the Ranking Member of the Emergency Management Subcommittee, and as a former first responder, I know how important it is to get this critical data as soon as possible. We need this data before there’s another spill, so we can protect the health of our people, our crops, and our natural resources. We need the most accurate data possible to provide the bold policy leadership that our constituents deserve in tackling complex issues like pipeline safety.
Mr. Chairman, I urge my colleagues to support this amendment and I yield back the balance of my time.