Lawmakers introduce harbor spill bills

By Catherine Cruz
Published On: Jan 27 2014 04:53:00 PM HST

Lawmakers introduce a number of bills to prevent any future discharges into the Honolulu harbor.

HONOLULU -

Lawmakers put off a hearing into what led to the spill, hoping to get a report that Matson promised would be shared publicly.

Click here to watch Catherine Cruz's story.

 But they aren't waiting for that, or the results from a state and EPA probe, to introduce legislation they hope will prevent another environmental disaster.

Spill a quarter-million gallons of molasses in the ocean and you kill a lot of fish.

"The bottom line is that government and industry was unprepared to deal with this freak accident," said Sen. Mike Gabbart, chairman of the Senate environment committee.

Scientists have spent the last several months trying to understand the toll the spill on the marine environment and to attach a figure to the losses.

Twenty thousand or more fish and massive coral colonies are among the casualties.

State and federal regulators have been trying to unravel the legal implications-- what laws were broken and who should be held responsible.

 Lawmakers who promised action are doing what they can.

"Right now it's taking a broad picture to take the easy things we can do that are necessary to make sure this doesn't happen again, which is updating our spill response plans and making sure we can clean up efficiently and effectively," said Rep. Chris Lee, chairman of the House environment committee.

Among the ideas--- establishing a special fund for coral restoration with any money received from this spill and ensuring what's collected from this spill just doesn’t go back into the state's general fund.

Lawmakers are hoping state lawyers and the EPA take action while the Legislature is still in session.

"We are moving forward with some ideas to keep the discussion going and we are hoping the investigation will give us some results sooner than later," said Rep. Ryan Yamane, chair of the House transportation committee.

Lawmakers also want to make sure any shortcomings within the State Harbors division are addressed.

Transportation officials finally admitted they had flagged problems with Matson's leaky pipe before the massive spill but apparently dropped the ball with no proper follow-up inspection.

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