Loretta Sanchez shad­ows chief Se­nate ri­val on oil spill

O.C. con­gress­woman all but echoes Ka­mala Har­ris on Santa Bar­bara-area rup­ture.

Los Angeles Times - - OBITUARIES - By Michael Fin­negan michael.fin­negan@la­times.com

As U.S. Se­nate can­di­date Loretta Sanchez be­moaned the re­cent Santa Bar­bara County oil spill at a stop in Long Beach, the Or­ange County con­gress­woman all but echoed the words of her chief Se­nate ri­val, state Atty. Gen. Ka­mala D. Har­ris.

“We love our seashores, and we want to keep them open, and we want to have them clean,” Sanchez told re­porters Mon­day at Bel­mont Pier.

Like Har­ris, a fel­low Demo­crat who toured cleanup op­er­a­tions at Refu­gio State Beach on Thurs­day, Sanchez ques­tioned whether Plains All Amer­i­can Pipe­line had prop­erly main­tained the pipe that rup­tured last month and spilled more than 100,000 gal­lons of crude oil west of Santa Bar­bara. Plains All Amer­i­can owns the pipe.

But the du­el­ing beach­front ap­pear­ances, four days apart, by two lead­ing con­tenders for Demo­crat Bar­bara Boxer’s Se­nate seat served to high­light a key ad­van­tage that Har­ris holds over Sanchez: her job as at­tor­ney gen­eral.

As Cal­i­for­nia’s top law en­force­ment of­fi­cial, Har­ris was able to use her visit to Santa Bar­bara County’s scenic shore­line last week to vow swift pros­e­cu­tion of any crim­i­nal wrong­do­ing that her squads of lawyers and in­ves­ti­ga­tors might find in the oil spill.

Sanchez, though, is just one of 535 mem­bers of Congress, and her party’s mi­nor- ity sta­tus in the House lim­its her in­flu­ence.

She made the most of her less-pow­er­ful perch Mon­day in Long Beach, play­ing up bi­par­ti­san­ship as she stood along­side Rep. Dana Rohrabacher (R-Costa Mesa) and Rep. Alan Lowen­thal (DLong Beach).

Their con­sen­sus on the im­por­tance of pre­vent­ing coast­line oil spills was clear, but they did not ap­pear to agree on spe­cific so­lu­tions.

Sanchez said she would look into what the fed­eral gov­ern­ment can do to pre­vent oil spills and tighten over­sight of the in­dus­try’s ac­ci­dent pre­ven­tion prac­tices.

“I’m here to pledge to work with my col­leagues in the Congress as we find so­lu­tions to this,” she said.

Sanchez said she was es­pe­cially con­cerned about the in­abil­ity of lo­cal ju­ris­dic­tions to reg­u­late the safety of oil pipe­lines that cross their ter­ri­tory.

“Whether it re­quires leg­is­la­tion, I don’t know at this point,” she said. “But I do know this: It re­quires a lot more col­lab­o­ra­tion, and that is what we are pledg­ing to do here to­day.”

Rohrabacher said he planned to re­sume ef­forts to drum up sup­port in Congress for oil cleanup tech­nolo­gies like those cham­pi­oned by ac­tor Kevin Cost­ner. A cleanup com­pany should be able to col­lect spilled oil and sell it, the con­gress­man said.

Sanchez was skep­ti­cal. “In the first few hours,” she said, “we want to make sure we have the pro­fes­sion­als out there clean­ing up as quickly as pos­si­ble, be­cause that’s in par­tic­u­lar when it af­fects our wildlife out there.”

Wally Skalij Los An­ge­les Times

REP. DANA ROHRABACHER speaks about the Santa Bar­bara County oil spill at a news con­fer­ence at Bel­mont Vet­er­ans Me­mo­rial Pier in Long Beach on Mon­day as Rep. Loretta Sanchez lis­tens.

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