A spokesman for Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger today strongly rejected state Senate President pro Tem Don Perata's allegation that inaction by Schwarzenegger contributed to problems associated with last week's oil spill.
Speaking at a news conference at the Middle Harbor Shoreline Park, which is located near Oakland's waterfront, Perata, D-Oakland, charged that California is poorly prepared to deal with oil spills because Schwarzenegger hasn't made appointments to regional water board or fully funded and staffed the state's oil spill prevention program.
Perata said Schwarzenegger didn't follow a recommendation by his Department of Finance in 2005 that the oil spill program have itsfunding and staffing boosted because it's “drastically under-funded.”
Perata also said last month Schwarzenegger vetoed a bill he authored that would have strengthened the state's nine regional water boards and made California's frontline enforcers of water laws more effective and more accountable to the public.
Perata said nearly half of the seats on the state's regional water quality board are empty because Schwarzenegger hasn't filled them.
But Aaron McLear, a spokesman for the governor, said even if Schwarzenegger had signed Perata's bill the legislation wouldn't have taken effect until Jan. 1, so it wouldn't have had any impact on the 58,000-gallon spill by the cargo ship Cosco Busan after it struck the Bay Bridge.
McLear admitted there are some vacancies on the regional water quality boards but said “it's very common for boards to have vacancies” and one reason the process for filling vacancies is slow is that Schwarzenegger needs to find experts who are qualified to fill the positions.
Perata charged that the San Francisco Regional Water Quality Board, which meets in Oakland, doesn't currently have enough members for a quorum and thus can't even meet to decide how to take action on last week's oil spill.
But McLear said Perata's claim is untrue and said the local board does in fact have enough members for a quorum and can hold meetings and hearings.
McLear said, “Senator Perata's accusations are misguided. If he could indicate how the state could have responded to the oil spill better we'd like to hear that.”
McLear said Perata in his news conference today “didn't point to any lack of response” by the state to the spill.
Asked if he thought Perata was playing politics with the oil spill, McLear said, “I don't want to speculate on the senator's motivations.”
McLear said Schwarzenegger has added $7.3 million in funding and 9.2 positions to the state's oil spill prevention program since he took office in 2003.
— Bay City News