LOS ANGELES, AUG. 31 -- Legislative sponsors, environmentalists, trial attorneys and oil-industry lobbyists today announced agreement on oil-spill legislation that would require a 25-cents-per-barrel tax to create a $100 million cleanup fund in California and provide the nation's tightest restrictions on the oil industry.
"It is the most comprehensive and stringent oil-spill measure in the nation, if not the world," said Gordon Hart, chief negotiator for the Sierra Club.
The authors of the bill, Sen. Barry Keene (D-Benicia) and Assemblyman Ted Lempert (D-San Mateo), said they settled intense disagreements with the oil industry over the size of the cleanup fund and whether oil cleanup workers would be liable for damage caused while scouring muck from beaches and shores.
"We don't consider it a compromise bill at all," Hart said. "It contains all the the essential elements of oil-spill legislation."
Ed Matovcik, Keene's press secretary, said the bill is expected to pass before the legislature adjourns tonight, even though it requires a two-thirds vote in each house because it imposes a tax.
"All the parties have signed off on it," Matovcik said. "It will pass the Assembly, the Senate, then go to the governor . . . all before midnight." Matovcik said that because legislative leaders stop the clock a few minutes before midnight, in reality the session would probably finish around 3 a.m. local time.
The issue of the immunity of oil-spill cleanup crews hired by petroleum interests threatened to kill the bill, but negotiations provided a 60-day immunity with the possibility of a 30-day extension if granted by the assigned administrator to protect crews sued for property damage.
"Overall, we support the need for an oil-spill bill. . . . There are very adequate protections in the bill -- raising the money needed to fight any size spill," said Arco spokesman Al Greenstein.
Other prevention measures provided by the bill are oil-tanker inspection and safety programs, a radar system to control vessel traffic, tugboat escorts of tankers and emergency stations for disabled tankers along the coast. In addition, the bill gives the state unlimited borrowing authority for cleanups.
In other action, both houses passed a bill providing mandatory $15,000 in earthquake insurance to all homeowners by creating an annual surcharge of $12 to $60 depending on the risk of earthquakes. The bill has been sent to the governor for his approval.
Bob Forsythe, press secretary to Senate President David Roberti (D-Los Angeles), said the bipartisan compromise to move California's presidential primary to March is "up in the air" at the moment.
A companion measure banning initiatives from the presidential primary ballot -- a condition for much of the early primary's support -- had 35 "yes" votes and 28 "no" votes in the Assembly, falling short of the required two-thirds majority.