President Carter yesterday proposed a $200 million federal fund to clean up oil spills and compensate their victims.He also recommended tougher standards for oil tankers that use U.S. ports, to cut down on the spills themselves.
In a message to Congress, Carter called ocean oil pollution "a serious problem that calls for concentrated, energetic and prompt attention."
The problem is global, the President said, and requires "global solutions. I intend to communicate directly with the leaders of a numer of major maritime nations to solicit their support for international action." He gave no timetable.
The President was promptly attacked by Sen Edward Brooke (R-Mass.) for not going "very far beyond the rules the Coast Guard has currently proposed." Brooke has for two years been pushing proposals which, he said, are similar to some of Carter's.
Carter's specific proposals included:
A single new law pinpointing responsibility for oil spills no matter what their source, to replace "the current fragmented and overlapping systems of federal and state oil spill liability laws and compensation funds."
The 200 million fund would be set up under this law, which the White House said is based on a law with lower liability limits already under consideration in the House.
Ratification by the U.S. Senate of the 1973 International Convention for the Prevention of Pollution from Ships, which prohibits most of the oily discharges tankers commonly pour into the sea while cleaning their tanks and bilges.
Such "operational discharges" account for about 85 per cent of the oil spilled from tankers each year, officials said.
New proposed oil tanker construction standards to take effect in five years, that include double hulls, collision avoidance equipment, separate tanks for oil and the water used for ballast, and inert gas systems to prevent explosions like the one that blew the Sansinena into two pieces in Long Beach, Calif., harbor in December. Less than 5 per cent of the existing tankers would meet these proposed standards now, officials said.
A special international conference, possibly in early fall, to discuss stricter standards for oil tanker construction, equipment and inspections.
Coast Guard boarding of every foreign flag tanker that enters U.S. ports at least once a year, to make sure that ships meet all safety and environmental protection standards. Computerized records would allow tankers with poor safety records to be banned from U.S. ports.
Developing the ability to respond "adequately" to any oil spill up to 100,000 tons within six hours.
Jody Powell, Carter's press secretary, called the plan "the first comprehensive attack on this problem made by the country."
The Coast guard has estimated that double hulls, recommended earlier by the Interior Department and the Environmental Protection Agency, could raise the $40 million to $50 million costof a new average-size tanker by 10 per cent.