WASHINGTON, D.C. – During a Senate Commerce, Science, and Transportation Committee hearing today to consider various legal remedies available for the oil spill in the Gulf, Senator Kay Bailey Hutchison (R-Texas), Ranking Member on the Committee, called on President Obama to waive the Jones Act to temporarily allow foreign marine vessels to assist with oil cleanup efforts in the Gulf of Mexico. Hutchison noted that it has been more than two months since the oil spill began, and an estimated 140 million gallons of oil have leaked into the Gulf.
“To date, over 20 countries have offered response vessels and expertise to assist in cleanup of the Gulf,” said Senator Hutchison. “But because of the 1920 Merchant Marine Act, known as the Jones Act, foreign vessels are prohibited from operating within three miles of the U.S. coastline, except after having to go through an extended process for waivers. However, the waivers have not been granted for foreign skimmers to come within the three miles and that is where we need them right now.”
Last week, Senator Hutchison introduced S. 3512, the Water Assistance from International Vessels for Emergency Response Act (WAIVER), along with Senators LeMieux (R-Fla.), Cornyn (R-Texas), Isakson (R-Ga.), McCain (R-Ariz.), Barrasso (R-Wyo.), Bond (R-Mo.) and Sessions (R-Ala.), to allow foreign flagged vessels with crucial equipment to travel between U.S. ports to provide needed assistance for oil spill cleanup in the Gulf of Mexico. Hutchison noted that waiving the Jones Act during an emergency is not without precedent. Just three days after Hurricane Katrina made landfall, the previous administration waived the Jones Act for foreign response vessels to aid in the response efforts.
“This bill would allow the waivers to occur immediately under the auspices of the Coast Guard,” said Senator Hutchison. “These foreign vessels could come in and help with the mitigation of the damage. Each hour that passes without a waiver is one more hour that the communities most in need of assistance are forced to go without it. I hope that the President will waive the Jones Act on his own. We can get this hurdle out of the way right now. I hope that we can pass my legislation because I think it will give some real help.”
Senator Hutchison also stated that it was important to work
together to improve the safety of offshore drilling in the Gulf of Mexico, in
order to protect the Gulf environment.
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You can view Senator Hutchison’s statement here.