Thursday, June 12, 2008

Governor's oil-spill plan falls short, Hancock says

SACRAMENTO — Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger on Wednesday announced what he called a plan to prevent oil spills — such as the Cosco Busan spill in the Bay last November. But he ignored most of the spill-prevention and response bills that Bay Area lawmakers developed after emergency public hearings.

Schwarzenegger, in a statement, said his plan would provide "the tools we need to prevent another devastating oil spill of the magnitude we saw last fall.''

But Assemblywoman Loni Hancock, D-Berkeley, called the governor's plan "window dressing," saying it had serious shortcomings in addressing the state's oil spill prevention and response efforts.

The Cosco Busan cargo ship, traveling in foggy conditions, struck the Bay Bridge on Nov. 7, causing a rupture in the vessel and spilling 58,000 gallons of thick oil into the Bay, fouling waters and killing wildlife.

The Republican governor's plan would make changes in agencies' administrative procedures, as well as support two bills that deal with inland oil spills and another that would ensure training of first-responders.

His plan also requires little funding — unlike the Bay Area Democrats' bills.

Hancock's Assembly Bill 2032 would increase the maximum Oil Spill Prevention and Administration Fund fee from 5 cents to 8 cents on imported barrels of petroleum products to support and improve the state's oil spill prevention and response program.

The bill narrowly passed Advertisementthe Assembly last month and has moved to the Senate.

Republican lawmakers argued that customers would end up paying more at the pump, but bill supporters said the hike would be too small to be felt by consumers.

The augmentation is particularly important, Hancock said, because Schwarzenegger intends to borrow from the oil spill fund to help close a multibillion-dollar state budget gap.

"He left out the substantive response to the Cosco Busan oil spill," Hancock said, "and the package of legislation that was developed after hearings that actually prevent future oil spills and enable a faster and better response."

Schwarzenegger spokeswoman Lisa Page said the governor does not consider the matter closed.

"He will continue working with all interested legislators on additional solutions to the problem," Page said.

The governor's plan does contain one Bay Area lawmaker's bill, Senate Bill 739, by state Sen. Joe Simitian, D-Palo Alto, which is aimed at ensuring that first-responders are adequately trained for oil spills.

  • Housing Aid Bill Faces Veto by President Bush
  • Governor’s oil-spill plan falls short, Hancock says
  • Hancock pulls ahead of Chan with late fundraising push