Oil spill prevention is focus of California bill

In response to the massive oil spill in the Gulf of Mexico, California lawmakers are looking to strengthen the state's oil spill prevention requirements.

An Assembly measure now before Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger would allow the state to increase fees on oil shipped into California by as much as $5.6 million.

AB 234 also requires oil companies and shippers to use precautionary containment booms for all marine oil transfers and calls for tougher safety reporting for existing offshore drilling operations.

"We cannot leave California defenseless against oil spills, especially in the wake of the Gulf Coast catastrophe," said Assemblyman Jared Huffman, D-San Rafael, the bill's author.

A blowout at the Gulf of Mexico's Deepwater Horizon rig in April killed 11 workers and dumped more than 200 million gallons of crude oil into the Gulf of Mexico.

Huffman said the California coast has seen seven oil spills during the last two years. In all but one of those cases, precautionary booms — floating barriers used to contain spills — were not used prior to the spill.

Current regulations give oil companies the option of using booms before all marine transfers. If a spill occurs, the company must deploy 600 feet of booming equipment within a half hour of the spill and another 600 feet of boom within an hour.

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