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FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE                    
September 29, 2008
For More Information, Contact:
Sarah Mason at (916) 651-4011
Hema Sareen Mohan at (650) 688-6384


– Governor Schwarzenegger today signed legislation to ensure that first-responders are adequately trained and prepared to take action on marine oil spills.  Senate Bill 1739, authored by State Senator Joe Simitian (D-Palo Alto), addresses a variety of key obstacles to ensure the environmental health of California’s coast and ocean. 

SB 1739 is a direct response to the Cosco Busan incident last fall in which a cargo ship ran into the Bay Bridge, ultimately sending more than 53,000 gallons of fuel oil into the San Francisco Bay.  Cleanup efforts were slow to start, allowing the oil to spread across the bay and up and down the coast.  More than 2,500 birds died as a result of the spill, with cleanup costs swelling to $100 million. 

The spill exposed a number of gaps and deficiencies in current law that failed to prevent and effectively respond to this type of disaster.  Local governments were not notified in a timely manner.  Officials underestimated the extent of the spill.  Responses were not coordinated.  That combination resulted in a coastal nightmare of needless loss of wildlife, damages to the state’s fishing industry and closed beaches.

“There was a lot of frustration after the Cosco Busan spill. We had a good law on the books that was adequately funded, but when the emergency happened, the system failed us,”  Simitian said.  “We can’t afford to use the next emergency as an opportunity to practice,” he said. “We need to ensure that when the next spill happens, we’re ready.”

SB 1739 responds to these obstacles by requiring, rather than authorizing (as is the case under current law), oil spill response organizations to demonstrate that required resources can be deployed for an oil spill.  The bill also requires unannounced practice exercises and says that these requirements must apply not only to ships but also marine and fueling facilities. 

Since most of these practice exercises are held outside the state without any objective monitoring, SB 1739 also provides for independent oil spill monitors in the event the state Office of Spill Prevention and Response administrator, U.S. Coast Guard, or other qualified agency cannot attend a session held outside California.

Simitian’s SB 1739 is one measure in the comprehensive seven bill package designed to enhance the State’s oil spill prevention and response effort. 

“California’s coastline and waterways are a national treasure, and this package of legislation will help us better protect and preserve our natural resources for future generations,” Governor Schwarzenegger said. “Following the devastating oil spill last November, we took steps to improve oil spill response times and environmental protections.”

“Complacency is our enemy,” said Simitian.  “Our first-responders need to be trained, drilled, and tested on every aspect of oil spill prevention and response.  It’s just that simple.”

To learn more about SB 1739, please visit