Cantwell backs plan for stronger oil-spill safeguards

SEATTLE POST-INTELLIGENCER
http://seattlepi.nwsource.com/local/6420AP_WA_Oil_Spill_Prevention.html

Last updated June 14, 2007 8:15 p.m. PT

THE ASSOCIATED PRESS

WASHINGTON — Sen. Maria Cantwell introduced a bill Thursday to improve federal efforts to prevent and respond to oil spills.

The bill would implement long-sought environmental safeguards to protect U.S. waterways from contamination, and would build on a 1990 law passed in response to the devastating 1989 Exxon Valdez spill in Alaska, said Cantwell, D-Wash.

Despite a drop in the number of spills since the 1990 law, the volume of oil spilled has not decreased, said Cantwell, who chairs the Senate Subcommittee on Oceans, Atmosphere, Fisheries and the Coast Guard.

In 1992, vessels spilled 665,432 gallons of oil. In 2004, the figure was 722,768 gallons, with 36 spills from tank ships in U.S. waters, 141 spills from barges and 1,562 spills from other vessels, including cargo ships.

Among other things, the bill would require that a user-funded tugboat be stationed year-round at Neah Bay to assist any ships that might get in distress near the mouth of the Strait of Juan de Fuca. The state has provided money for wintertime tug coverage the past few years.

Cantwell’s bill would require the Coast Guard to increase inspections of single-hull tankers as well as vessels with poor safety records. Current law requires that all tankers have double hulls by 2015.

The bill would also direct the Coast Guard to examine the most frequent sources of human error resulting in spills or “near miss” incidents and establish a grant program to reduce smaller spills.

“With 15 billion gallons of oil passing through Washington state waters every year, we must remain vigilant and strengthen our oil spill safety net. Investing in the protection of our marine environment and fishery resources will ensure vibrant coastal communities,” Cantwell said in a statement.

Meanwhile, Rep. Dave Reichert, R-Wash., has co-sponsored a bill designed to ensure that victims of the Exxon Valdez spill have greater financial security in their retirement. He said Exxon has not paid damages to some elderly victims, imperiling their retirement security.

The bill, co-sponsored by Rep. Don Young, R-Alaska, would allow fishermen to average their income back to 1994, the year of the original jury award in the Exxon case. About 6,000 plaintiffs in Washington state have filed claims in the Exxon Valdez case.

~ by fredfelleman on June 15, 2007.

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