Compromise Near on Oil Spill Cleanup Bill
Negotiators reported themselves on the verge Thursday night of an 11th-hour compromise aimed at creating a comprehensive effort to control and clean up catastrophic oil tanker spills off the California coast.
“It’s imminent,” environmentalist Assemblyman Lloyd G. Connelly (D-Sacramento) said of the settlement and preparations to send the proposal to Gov. George Deukmejian before the Legislature adjourns tonight.
In seemingly overcoming a fierce fight between oil companies and trial lawyers that had threatened for weeks to scuttle the bill, Connelly said legislative, environmental and oil company negotiators had produced “good, defensible public policy.”
At a series of meetings throughout the Capitol that spanned much of the day, negotiators said they had all but put the final touches on a compromise that would resolve the last two remaining sticking points.
One would reduce from $150 million to $100 million an oil spill response fund that would be financed by an extra 25 cents per barrel tax on oil. Deukmejian last week said a $30-million fund was adequate while oil companies opposed any fund at their expense.
The second feature would give cleanup workers hired by oil companies immunity from lawsuits for up to 90 days for any property damage their operations might cause. The politically potent California Trial Lawyers Assn. had opposed any immunity for crews employed by the oil industry.
A spokeswoman for the trial lawyers said their representatives participated in negotiations but declined to characterize their position on the tentative agreement.
Gubernatorial press secretary Robert Gore said Deukmejian had been kept posted on developments and was “optimistic we can get something we can all agree on.”
Another negotiating participant, Michael B. Kahl of the Western States Petroleum Assn., was “very hopeful” that final touches would seal the arrangement overnight.