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Pelosi seeks probe of Coast Guard’s oil spill response

By Josh Richman
Tuesday, December 4th, 2007 at 12:59 pm in General, Nancy Pelosi, U.S. House.

House Speaker Nancy Pelosi, D-San Francisco, and House Coast Guard & Maritime Transportation Subcommittee chairman Elijah Cummings, D-Md., today wrote to the Department of Homeland Security’s Inspector General requesting an immediate investigation of the Coast Guard’s response to the November 7 oil spill in San Francisco Bay, as well as the Coast Guard’s emergency response capabilities in San Francisco Bay.

“Significant questions have been raised regarding this marine casualty, including whether adequate safety measures were in place to prevent such an accident, whether the Federally coordinated response to the accident was adequate for a spill of this magnitude, and whether the follow-up investigation of the casualty by the Coast Guard conformed with best investigatory practices,” they wrote.

Read the whole letter after the jump…

December 4, 2007

Mr. Richard L. Skinner
Inspector General
Department of Homeland Security
245 Murray Drive, S.W.
Washington, D.C. 20528

Dear Mr. Skinner:

On November 7, 2007, the M/V COSCO BUSAN hit the San Francisco-Oakland Bay Bridge. Significant questions have been raised regarding this marine casualty, including whether adequate safety measures were in place to prevent such an accident, whether the Federally coordinated response to the accident was adequate for a spill of this magnitude, and whether the follow-up investigation of the casualty by the Coast Guard conformed with best investigatory practices.

We request that you conduct a 30-day review of the facts and circumstances surrounding the allision and the subsequent investigation and response. We would expect a briefing regarding your initial findings no later than 1 February 2008, followed in 60 days by your written findings.

Based on information gathered during the course of a field hearing held by the Subcommittee on Coast Guard and Maritime Transportation in San Francisco on November 19, 2007, we expect that you will include a review of the following:

San Francisco Vessel Traffic Service (VTS):

  • What action did the watch-standers at the Coast Guard’s Vessel Traffic System take prior to the allision?
  • Was there additional action that could have been taken or information that could have been provided by the watch-standers that may have prevented the allision?
  • Does the San Francisco Vessel Traffic Service have the most up-to-date technology?
  • Should Vessel Traffic Service have the capability of prohibiting ship transits during periods of reduced visibility?
  • Would additional Coast Guard authority over the Vessel Traffic Service help prevent this type of situation?
  • Coast Guard Investigation:

  • Was the Coast Guard’s initial investigation, including the securing of evidence and estimation of the extent of the oil release, adequate?
  • Was drug and alcohol testing of maritime personnel conducted in accordance with applicable Coast Guard regulations?
  • Did the Coast Guard provide all records relating to this incident to the National Transportation Safety Board in a timely manner?
  • Coast Guard Response:

  • Did the Unified Command effectively manage the resources available to the Coast Guard to effect containment and remediation of the spill?
  • To what extent was the delay in notification of local authorities and emergency responders of the size of the oil spill a result of inadequacies in the San Francisco Area Contingency Plan?
  • Did the delay in notification of the size of the oil spill adversely impact the response of the Coast Guard, State and local governments, and Responsible Party response to the release?
  • To what extent was there local involvement in the development of the San Francisco Area Contingency Plan?
  • Is the San Francisco Area Contingency Plan adequate to guide the response to a spill of the size and type of fuel encountered in this allision?
  • Were the provisions of the San Francisco Area Contingency Plan followed during the response to this incident?
  • The Oil Pollution Act of 1990 required development of a rapid response plan for the treatment of marine resources, wildlife and fisheries. Is that plan currently in place and was it followed during the response to this incident? Was it adequate to guide this aspect of the response? Do the relevant federal agencies ever do drills specifically related to fish and wildlife protection?

    In addition, the investigation should review the Coast Guard’s existing emergency response capabilities in San Francisco Bay and make recommendations regarding needed improvements, and should assess whether recent reorganizations within the Coast Guard contributed to the inadequacy of the prevention, response, and investigation of this incident.

    Thank you for your timely response to this request. We look forward to reviewing the findings of this investigation.

    Sincerely,

    NANCY PELOSI
    Speaker of the House

    ELIJAH E. CUMMINGS
    Chairman, Subcommittee on Coast Guard & Maritime Transportation

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