Letters Victory for Buzzards Bay: Governor signs bay law

September 04, 2008 10:45 AM
From the Coalition for Buzzards bay

After five years of battling to protect the Bay from future oil spills, the Coalition has terrific news to share: oil spill prevention measures have been restored for Buzzards Bay! On Friday, August 8, Gov. Deval Patrick signed into law “An Act Further Preventing Oils Spills in Buzzards Bay” ensuring that all single- and double-hulled oil barges have a tugboat escort and an experienced local pilot on board while transiting Buzzards Bay. The Coalition drafted the new legislation, which was filed by Sen. Mark C. Montigny of New Bedford and Rep. John F. Quinn of Dartmouth in January 2007, and successfully lobbied for its passage.

“In five years of work on this issue, this is the most important bill passed in either the state or federal government to protect Buzzards Bay from oil spills,” said Coalition President Mark Rasmussen. “It puts in place two things we all knew were the most important to prevent spills like the one that fouled our Bay in 2003 — an escort tug and an experienced marine pilot on every oil barge.”

Navigational risks abound in Buzzards Bay, given its shallow mean depth of 36 feet and the rocky ledges and reefs that flank the channels.

Local pilots and tug escorts can effectively warn oil barges of navigational hazards and immediately respond to navigational accidents.

The 2004 Massachusetts Oil Spill Prevention and Response Act sought to provide the same protective measures following the 2003 Bouchard oil spill, but the federal government and oil shipping industry challenged the law. A subsequent U.S. District Court ruling found major parts of the act unconstitutional, including the mandatory tug escort provision. That case is still pending.

The new law circumvents the ruling by requiring that the Massachusetts Department of Environmental Protection provide escort tugs rather than placing the requirement on the oil industry.

~ by fredfelleman on September 4, 2008.

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