Hutchison and LeMieux Introduce Legislation to Provide Assistance to Oil Spill Clean Up Effort

Bill Would Temporarily Allow Foreign Vessels to Help Remove Oil from Gulf

June 18, 2010

Hutchison PortraitWASHINGTON, D.C. – Senator Kay Bailey Hutchison (R-Texas), Ranking Member on the Senate Commerce, Science, and Transportation Committee, Committee member Senator George LeMieux (R-Fla.), and Senator John Cornyn (R-Texas), today introduced legislation that would temporarily allow foreign marine vessels to assist with the oil cleanup effort in the Gulf of Mexico.  The bill, titled the WAIVER (Water Assistance from International Vessels for Emergency Response) Act, would temporarily waive the Jones Act, which requires that all goods and people transported by water between United States ports be carried in American flagged, owned, and crewed ships.  The waiver would allow foreign flagged vessels with crucial equipment to travel between U.S. ports to provide needed assistance.  The Jones Act was put into place in 1920 to ensure that the United States was able to maintain a fleet of merchant ships.

“The oil leaking from the ocean’s floor is destroying the natural resources of the Gulf and we need every resource at our disposal to prevent further destruction,” said Senator Hutchison.  “The Jones Act is currently preventing resources from being used in the monumental cleanup effort, and is hindering the ability of foreign vessels to assist Gulf communities in preventing oil from reaching their shores.  In this time of crisis, we need to cut through the red tape and get all available assets on scene as quickly as possible.”

“With still only 20 skimmers off the coast of Florida, we need to expedite additional assistance. Any vessels ready to help should be allowed into the Gulf,” Senator LeMieux said. “This bill will provide for a streamlined waiver process for any foreign vessel willing and able to help mitigate the impacts of the spill. We can no longer wait for the Administration to work through its bureaucracy. We need action now to clean our precious waters and protect our beaches from further intrusion of oil.”

Senator Hutchison noted that the Jones Act was waived as part of disaster response in the past, including to assist with Hurricane Katrina nearly five years ago. She said the legislation will waive the Jones Act only for vessels whose sole intent is to assist in the cleanup of the Gulf of Mexico.  This waiver would be applied for a period of time that is necessary to respond to the spill and restore the waters of the Gulf.

“The administration has failed to issue a waiver on the Jones Act, which is blockading foreign vessels from working with their American counterparts to remove the oil from the waters of the Gulf,” Senator Hutchison said.  “The federal response to this spill has been unacceptable, and we cannot wait around until the disaster gets worse.  I look forward to working with my colleagues from both sides of the aisle to pass this common sense legislation, which will allow foreign vessels responding to the spill to get to work immediately.”

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