United States Senator Mary L. Landrieu [D-La.], chair of the Senate Committee on Small Business and Entrepreneurship, today held a hearing to discuss the evaluation process for proposals to clean up the leaking oil in the Gulf of Mexico from the Deepwater Horizon oil rig, as well as ways to improve the effectiveness and efficiency of the process.
The hearing -- entitled "Harnessing Small Business Innovation: Navigating the Evaluation Process for Gulf Coast Oil Cleanup Proposals" -- brought together federal witnesses from the U.S. Coast Guard and Environmental Protection Agency [EPA] to discuss what the current process entails, and how small businesses can play a pivotal role in the Gulf Coast cleanup.
"As I have said before, after hurricanes Katrina and Rita, our business owners were up to their chins in water," Sen. Landrieu said. "Now, because of this disaster, these same business owners are up to their knees in oil. We want to find out how small businesses with the technology and innovation to help clean up this oil can get those technologies and innovative ideas deployed to the Gulf of Mexico.
"The most recent data from the Flow Rate Technical Group estimates as much as 60,000 barrels of oil a day is escaping from the damaged well. With so much at stake along the Gulf Coast, small businesses with the knowledge of oil-spill cleanup can play an active role in cleaning up this disaster, and we want to make sure they have the opportunity to do that."
Testifying on the first panel for the U.S. Coast Guard was Rear Admiral Ronald J. Rábago, assistant commandant for acquisition and chief acquisition officer [CAO]; and Dr. Paul T. Anastas, assistant administrator and science advisor for the EPA's Office of Research and Development [ORD].
The second panel included witnesses from businesses and universities with experience working with oil-spill cleanup -- including Oscar-winning actor and entrepreneur Kevin Costner [pictured], from Ocean Therapy Solutions LLC; Eric Smith, from Tulane University; Dan Parker, with C.I.Agent Solutions®; Heather Baird, with MicroSorb Environmental Products Inc.; and Dr. Carys Mitchelmore, from the University of Maryland.
During the hearing, the U.S. Coast Guard testified that over 1,900 proposals have been reviewed by the federal Interagency Alternative Technology Assessment Program [IATAP], and screened about 600 proposals. To date, no proposals have yet been deployed in the Gulf of Mexico, but IATAP has forwarded one proposal to Rear Admiral James A. Watson, the federal on-scene coordinator, for possible deployment in the Gulf of Mexico.
As of today, BP has received over 35,000 proposals -- with only four in the testing phase and none deployed to the Gulf of Mexico.
Chair Landrieu pressed the Coast Guard and EPA officials to improve communications with companies submitting proposals -- particularly in getting timely responses on the status of those proposals. She also encouraged the agencies to make the process more transparent, and to communicate with local Gulf Coast officials on possible credible proposals.
On the business panel, Kevin Costner, partner of Ocean Therapy Solutions LLC, testified that he has spent 15 years and $24 million of us own funds developing his company’s technology. An additional $1 million was spent adjusting the machines to prepare them for testing.
Costner indicated that his company had screened this technology for various federal agencies over the years, but they were noncommittal and did not follow up. BP is contracting with Ocean Therapy Solutions to deploy more than 30 machines into the Gulf of Mexico.
During the hearing, Sen. Landrieu made public a two-page document for small businesses that wish to submit a product or credible idea to the Unified Area Command or BP. The document includes specific instructions for submitting information, as well as information on the overall process. To view the application, visit: http://bit.ly/OilSpillCleanupApp.
To view a video of the hearing, as well as testimony from each witness, please go to: http://bit.ly/OilSpillCleanupHearing.
SOURCES: Ocean Therapy Solutions LLC [photo], U.S. Senate Committee on Small Business and Entrepreneurship
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