In the Timor Sea, a new oil drilling platform, built with the latest technologies intended to keep workers safe and prevent oil spills, is now nothing but a charred, filthy wreck. The platform leaked oil at a rate somewhere between 400 and 2,000 barrels of oil per day for 74 days straight, and the drilling company, PTTEP, was unable even to staunch the flow during that time. Finally, the platform caught fire, creating an immense blaze with a smoke trail 80 miles long.
During the two and a half months that this single massive oil spill took place between Australia and Indonesia, multiple smaller oil spills took place along the coastline of the United States. The most recent oil spill was in San Francisco Bay, which is still cleaning up after another oil spill that took place two years ago.
Consider the Oil Spill Prevention Act, introduced by Senator Frank Lautenberg, in this context. The bill, numbered S. 685, would help prevent oil spills from tankers associated with offshore drilling and from other oceanic shipping as well.
The bill would
– require non-tankers to have the same double-hull system that tankers now must have
– improve shipping traffic management by the Coast Guard
– establish a medical review system for commercial pilots
– fund studies of the causes of accidents at sea
– strengthen the licensing of pilots and other marine transportation workers
Of course, the best way to prevent oil spills is to stop the expansion of offshore drilling, reducing the number of petroleum-laden tankers and offshore platforms littering our nation’s coastlines. However, given the offshore drilling that already exists, the Oil Spill Prevention Act is an important bill that every senator should be able to support.