Dialogue. . . from page 24 flying kites, Bob canoeing on the Rio Grande, Bob hosting Texas Observer fundraising parties, Bob making Dolph Briscoe jokes. He is a nice guy of liberal bent and deserves your support in that. But as commissioner of the General Land Office, his official acts deserve the to those of Bob Bullock, Bill Clements, or any other, elected official. Your readers will benefit from that scrutiny, and so will coastal management in Texas. There are some alterations of existing legal structures which can reasonably be expected to lessen the possibility of oil spills and to provide an adequate fund for compensating spill victims. Let’s forget about broadening the doctrine of strict liability and move right along to that of criminal liability for intentional acts and grossly negligent acts that result in pollution of water by oil spills. Let’s provide for jail terms for ships’ captains who are proven to have intentionally discharged crude oil or fuel oil into coastal waters. And let’s do the same for drunken ships’ captains or first mates \(and the captains who put them in shallow waters or into other ships, and spill oil into coastal waters. Let’s provide the same mandatory penalty for offshore oil rig foremen who intentionally discharge oil into the Gulf or who are so grossly negligent as to cause such a discharge. And let’s run the responsibility , and liability for that right back along the chain of corporate com mand, through middle management and into the executive offices. I would guess that it would not require the jailing of more than a half dozen oil industry officers to drastically reduce the incidence of oil spills. Something else we could do would be to provide for the seizure and forfeiture of instrumentalities \(e.g., ships, drilling platforms, off-loading facilities, corposion of oil spill pollution, in much the same manner the law now provides for seizure and forfeiture of instrumentalities used in gambling and smuggling. These assets can be sold and the funds used to compensate oil spill victims. We should demand of the U.S. Coast Guard stringent rules concerning the safety of American tankers; double hulls, back-up guidance and propulsion systems, well-trained crews, and whatever else is needed to prevent rupture or collision of tankers should be required of every American flag vessel. And we should demand either that all foreign vessels carrying oil into American ports meet those standards or that all tankers entering American ports be American flag vessels. We should assure coastal towns and cities of their power to regulate off-shore oil production so as to protect their beaches and aesthetics from the impacts of oil spills. The governing bodies of those municipalities are closer to the problem and more sensitive to local needs than are the state regulatory agencies such as the Railroad Commission, Water Resources Department, and General Land Office, which are remote, unresponsive, and have a continuing tradition of coziness with the oil and gas industry. The GLO, while commending those coastal governing bodies which provide tax breaks for industry and acquire land through condemnation for industrial parks, typically goes into a kind of bureaucratic apoplexy whenever a coastal community takes any action to protect itself from the oil industry. There are some things not to do if we are serious about reducing the damage from oil spills. Do not drill near, or route tanker traffic near, sensitive deep-water areas such as the Georges Bank in the Atlantic and the Flower Garden Bank in the Gulf of Mexico. Do not drill in or near, or cut ship channels through, the marshes and grass flats of the Texas bays. And don’t, don’t, don’t, build onshore, deep-water, off-loading terminals for supertankers like those being supported for Pelican Island by Sen. Babe Schwartz and for Harbor Island by Sen. Carlos Truan. And finally, people such as Ronnie Dugger and Bob Armstrong should try hard to refrain from recommending nonremedies like strict liability and insurance pools. Misdirection of public attention and lobbying efforts, confusion about goals, and continued oil spills are what we can expect if they do not. Doran G. Williams Elgin Tip off our evening at Shenanigans. For starters, join us for one half price on all drinks served Mon. ti-iru Fri. 4 to 7, Mon. thru Thurs. 10 to 12 mid night, or Fri. .& Sat. 12 midnight til closing. Or come over for Chicken Cordon Bleu, Beer Batter Shrimp, Braised Sirloin Tips on Rice, Alaskan King Crab, & our famous Canadian Cheese Soup. Serving dinner daily at 5:30. A great way to tip off, or top off your evening. Barton Springs at S. First, Austin, Texas, 512/476-4838 THE TEXAS OBSERVER 23
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