WASHINGTON, D.C. – U.S. Senate Committee on Small Business and Entrepreneurship Ranking Member Olympia J. Snowe (R-Maine) urged the U.S. Coast Guard and the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) to establish a more efficient process that affords innovative small businesses the opportunity to participate in the cleanup of the Deepwater Horizon oil spill.  At a committee hearing, Senator Snowe criticized the federal government’s efforts as woefully inadequate, given that the Interagency Alternative Technology Assessment Program (IATAP) was not fully operational until six weeks after the initial explosion, and that none of the roughly 1,900 concepts submitted has been accepted.

“The greatest environmental disaster in our Nation’s history calls out for an efficient, coordinated response that employs all technologies that can effectively and safely combat the threat to fragile Gulf Coast ecosystems,” said Senator Snowe, who also serves as Ranking Member on the Senate Subcommittee on Oceans, Atmosphere, Fisheries, and Coast Guard.  “In a letter to the President two weeks ago, I urged that he seize the reins of crisis response from BP and establish a single point of federal accountability for approving new and innovative technologies and methodologies to protect the waterways that sustain the Gulf coast’s economy and nurture an entire way of life now in jeopardy of being lost.  Yet, regrettably, small businesses often continue to find themselves ensnared in a bureaucratic quagmire as a result of a process with no unified approach for evaluating and approving their entrepreneurial solutions to this unparalleled catastrophe.  And that is a recipe for inefficiency and inconsistency.”

The Committee heard from representatives of the Coast Guard and EPA, as well as several small business owners who have attempted to navigate the tangled process of obtaining approval for the government’s use of their products.  Senator Snowe criticized the dual track approval system, with BP still vetting some ideas, while the Federal government examines others, noting that proven and useful technologies may be overlooked or “erroneously dismissed.” 

“It is paramount that the federal government finally begin to move with the due urgency that has been conspicuously lacking,” concluded Senator Snowe.  “Ultimately, we have an obligation to leave no stone unturned in instituting a thorough, timely, and rational process to fast-track the review of all technologies and methodologies that have the potential to contain and stem the flow of oil, and mitigate the damage already inflicted.”