Richardson Plans To Introduce Oil Spill Response Bills

Photo by Samuel Lippke.

9:45am | Congressmember Laura Richardson (D-Long Beach) announced today that on the heels of a Homeland Security hearing on lessons from the Deepwater Horizon oil spill in the Gulf of Mexico, she will soon introduce two bills that aim to legislate response to similar environmental disasters in the future.

“In response to the Gulf Coast oil spill, I will soon introduce two bills, the OSPREY act and the SHORE act," Richardson said in a press release. "Together, these bills will 1) establish a legislative preference for restoration over other types of mitigation or compensation; 2) define damages in such a way that the monetary restitution will cover the actual costs of restoration efforts; 3) require operators of oil rigs to prepare a baseline study and clean-up plan that assumes the worst case scenario; and 4) require operators of oil rigs to develop a mitigation plan for restoring areas damaged by oil spills to the status quo."

Richardson is the chair of the Homeland Security Subcommittee on Emergency Communications, Preparedness and Response and said she saw a need for guidelines while visiting the disaster in the Gulf. "It was apparent to me that legislation was needed to address some of the complex problems that have arisen as a result of this tragic incident," she said.

The press release does not state specifically when the two bills will be introduced, but an annual District Report prepared by her office a few months earlier more clearly lays out the guts of the OSPREY, or Oil Spill Prevention and Return to Yesterday, act (the SHORE act is not mentioned in the report). While obviously in preliminary stages and still very broad and vague, the report states that the OSPREY act will identify natural resource sites that are vulnerable to disasters and prepare for potential accidents before they occur. It says that a guideline of steps to follow after an accident will be created, and that the "preferred method to mitigate the impacts to natural resources from an oil spill" is habitat restoration. It also calls for harsh penalties "that are strong enough that the responsible party will want to successfully prepare and implement the mitigation plan." Which is to say, very harsh.

Richardson also noted that oil drilling occurs in her district off the coast of Long Beach, although as noted in a previous article that type of drilling bares little resemblance to the kind that exploded in the Gulf and created the massive environmental disaster.

"“As the representative of California’s 37th district, there are offshore drilling platforms on THUMS island, which is located less than a mile offshore from the district’s coast," Richardson said. "If, heaven forbid, one of these oil drilling platforms were to experience an incident similar to that of the Deepwater Horizon, it would have devastating consequences on the region’s beaches, ports, and livelihoods of millions of Americans."

In fact, the drilling islands in Long Beach are actually considered onshore drilling because they are so close to land, and City officials have stated adamantly that a Gulf-like disaster is extremely unlikely. Large cargo ships carrying oil pose a far greater threat.

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