Congressional committee calls for answers
to oil spill response
House representatives join Speaker Nancy Pelosi at a congressional
hearing chaired by Elijah Cummings (D-Md) in the Presidio today,
to investigate the delayed response
to the November 7 Cosco Busan oil spill.
By Ari Burack
November 19, 2007
Members of Congress gathering for a House subcommittee hearing
in San Francisco today pledged to pursue a separate investigation
into the delayed response to the Nov. 7 Cosco Busan oil spill
that darkened San Francisco Bay with 58,000 gallons of toxic bunker
At a public hearing in the Presidio of the U.S. House of Representatives
Subcommittee on Coast Guard and Maritime Transportation, House
Speaker Nancy Pelosi, D-San Francisco, and others in the panel
expressed skepticism that the current National Transportation
Safety Board investigation of the U.S. Coast Guard's response
to the spill would be adequate.
That the NTSB investigation could take a year or more "is
just too long," Pelosi said. "Especially since this
could happen again."
Speaker Nancy Pelosi with Congressman Elijah Cummings (D-Md)
Pelosi said she will ask the U.S. Department of Homeland Security
to call for an investigation by the inspector general as well.
"Accidents do happen," Pelosi said. "But the fact
that all that time could go by, all that opportunity lost, is
something I do not understand. We need the answers, and we need
them very, very soon."
San Francisco Mayor Gavin Newsom told the committee this morning
that more than four hours after the early Wednesday morning crash
of the 900-foot container ship into a Bay Bridge tower, the Coast
Guard notified city officials that 140 gallons of fuel had entered
the water. Over 12 hours after the crash, Newsom said, city officials
were then told the number of gallons spilled was actually 58,000.
"Although the City continued to register our concerns about
the need for local involvement, it was not until Saturday that
(Coast Guard) Unified Command began to actively incorporate city
officials into the disaster response," Newsom added.
"Our local and regional expertise and emergency response
structure should play a crucial role from the beginning of any
disaster," Newsom said.
Mayor Gavin Newsom
Coast Guard Rear Adm. Craig Bone agreed there "was a mistake
in the communication, but the response," he noted, "was
Coast Guard Rear Adm. Craig Bone
Newsom also told the subcommittee that federal authorities turned
away thousands of beach cleanup and wildlife rescue volunteers
"because there was no effective volunteer management plan."
Bone admitted his agency was caught off-guard by the number of
citizen volunteers wanting to aid cleanup efforts and said national
response plans for disasters may need review.
"In a post 9/11 environment, we have to have better coordination,
better use of volunteers," Bone said.
Bone added that notification and communication between the Coast
Guard and city and county officials will be different in future
"We can do better...and we will do better," Bone told
the subcommittee. "We're not going to wait, we're going to
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