A year ago our nation experienced its largest natural disaster in history when Hurricane Katrina made landfall along the coast of the Gulf of Mexico. That region was struck again just 26 days later when Hurricane Rita followed. Today our thoughts and prayers remain with the families who lost loved ones and with those who continue to rebuild their lives throughout the Gulf Coast region.
Under the leadership and direction of President Bush, employees of the Department of Energy worked tirelessly throughout the aftermath of the storms to help clear regulatory and bureaucratic hurdles in the effort to restore life-giving and life-sustaining electricity and also to continue the flow of crude oil to fuel our nation's economy.
I am proud of how the Department's employees reacted to this catastrophe and also, how we've learned from it.
Literally hundreds of DOE employees have been directly involved in our response efforts from the days preceding the hurricanes to the months after. I believe that, by working together, we were able to mitigate the overall impact of the hurricanes on our nation's energy sector and, if challenged again, we are better prepared to cope with a disaster of this magnitude.
The Department deployed more than 40 emergency response experts throughout the region to help coordinate the federal assistance.
In addition, we released 21 million barrels of crude oil from the Strategic Petroleum Reserve in response to supply disruptions caused by the hurricanes. And we demonstrated, with our International Energy Agency (IEA) partners, our ability to quickly and efficiently orchestrate an international crude oil release which was instrumental in calming world oil markets. In the past year the IEA has reviewed the response and member countries have further improved their capabilities to respond to supply disruptions should the need arise.
The Department also worked with the Department of Homeland Security, the Department of Transportation, and the Environmental Protection Agency to have waivers issued that allowed more crude oil and refined gasoline to be used around the country. This resulted in assuring gasoline supply across the nation and virtually eliminated any gasoline shortages within just a few days.
DOE employees also worked with utility companies to ensure that technical barriers were overcome. And I signed waivers that eased regulatory restrictions and allowed electricity to flow from different parts of the country into areas where generating stations were completely destroyed.
While our immediate response to the storms was comprehensive, today our work continues.
The Department has upgraded and enhanced our storm modeling systems and grid visualization capabilities. These improvements will allow the DOE to better anticipate the likely effects of severe weather and be better prepared to respond, and to more effectively assess damage to our energy systems and speed restoration. We have conducted a series of exercises with electric utilities, oil and gas companies, and state and local governments as a means of improving coordination and assuring a more effective and organized response.
The Department's Office of Science has provided 800,000 hours of supercomputing time to the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers to allow them to create revised models for predicting the effects of storm surges along the Gulf Coast. This information is being used as the basis for design of levee repairs and improvements currently being underway to protect the New Orleans Metro Area.
In addition the Department's Office of Energy Efficiency and Renewable Energy has teamed with building industry processionals to train contractors in ways to cost-effectively build energy efficient homes in the Gulf region. The Office also partnered with the Department of Housing and Urban Development to sponsor hurricane preparedness and home repair workshops for local citizens throughout hurricane affected areas.
If there is one thing that we learned from the devastation of Hurricanes Katrina and Rita it is that when we work together and continue to sharpen our skills and our tools we can better assist those people who need our help. I would like to believe that a disaster of this magnitude will never happen again, but I am confident that if it does, the employees of the Department of Energy are prepared and willing to serve those in need, wherever and whenever duty calls.
Craig Stevens, (202) 586-4940