Press Releases

Washington, DC – U.S. Senator Dianne Feinstein (D-Calif.) today called for a prompt and thorough investigation of the causes of a reported 58,000 gallons of fuel oil spilled into the San Francisco Bay – the spill was the result of a freighter collision with the Bay Bridge earlier this week.

Following is the text of the letter sent today by Senator Feinstein to Department of Homeland Security Secretary Michael Chertoff:                                         

November 9, 2007

The Honorable Michael Chertoff
U.S. Department of Homeland Security
Washington, DC 20528

Dear Secretary Chertoff:

It is very unusual that a cargo ship being driven by a certified bar pilot experience an accident like the Cosco Busan scraping the base of a tower on the western span of the San Francisco – Oakland Bay Bridge, so I request that you complete a full and expedited investigation into the cause of the accident as well as the Coast Guard’s response.

There are many questions I hope your investigation will address so we can prevent oils spills like this one from happening in the future including: 

  1. Why did early reports indicate the oil spill was only 140 gallons and why did it take 12 hours since the time of the incident to announce that 58,000 gallons had spilled?  The release of inaccurate information negatively affected the response of local state and federal agencies.
  2. What is the escort boat requirement for oil tankers and cargo ships that enter in federal waters like San Francisco Bay?   I understand that Cosco Busan did have an escort in this instance but it may make sense that large ships carrying significant amounts of fuel should be required to have an escort boat accompany them, especially in waters with strong tidal action like the San Francisco Bay and in inclement weather like the heavy fog observed at the time of the incident.
  3. Does the Coast Guard have an adequate response plan for these types of incidents? Hundreds of ships move through the Golden Gate every year and the Port of Oakland is one of the busiest in the Country, so the ability of the Coast Guard to quickly respond is vital to public safety and protecting the sensitive environments like those around San Francisco Bay.
  4. Did the National Oceanic and Atmosphere Administration’s Physical Oceanographic Real Time System (PORTS) system measure accurate tidal conditions in the San Francisco Bay?  Having access to real-time conditions in the bay will help ship pilots navigate the Bay and response agencies model any future spills.

Thank you for your consideration of these issues.  I look forward to receiving your prompt response and please do not hesitate to contact me, if I can be of assistance. 


                                                          Dianne Feinstein
                                                          United States Senator