New Laws in Wake of Cosco Busan Spill



The San Jose Mercury News has a solid piece on the surprising amount of oil-spill laws passed by the state legislature in the wake of the Cosco Busan crash that killed thousands of birds and poisoned the bay waters with fuel oil. Although the governor may well veto the bills, the new regs are impressive: significantly raising the fees on imported oil to build a spill remediation fund; requiring cleanup crews to respond within two hours of a crash; setting up a $1 million grant to research new technology to contain oil slicks; and raising the fines for such spills. It's a big list, and it's all due to the heightened sense of urgency brought on by the Busan crash.

As we said, nice story. In fact, if you'll pardon us going all pedantic on you, it puts us in mind of Naomi Klein's unexpected best-seller The Shock Doctrine. Klein's main premise is that rabid right-wing ideologues deliberately exploit tragedies such as Hurricane Katrina to push their free-market agendas. She even goes so far as to argue that right-wing leaders, fully aware that ordinary people don't support their ideas, wait for natural or man-made disasters to shock people into a stupor. Then they can swoop in and remake the world. But as the New Republic's Jonathan Chait wrote in a recent critique of the book, "The notion that crises create fertile terrain for political change, far from being a ghoulish doctrine unique to free-market radicals, is a banal and ideologically universal fact." Think of the Great Depression and the New Deal. In the case of the Cosco Busan, Democratic state legislatures are sweeping in on the heels of a tragedy to push their own agenda, in this case safeguarding the bay from further depredations. We can't think of a recent example that better rebuts Klein's overwrought thesis.

There. Pedantry finished.