The state Senate yesterday passed a bill sponsored by Sen. Kevin Ranker, D-San Juan Island, that’s designed to prevent major oil spills in the Salish Sea and improve spill responses if there is a spill.
The legislation puts expanded and new responsibilities on oil companies operating in our waters, including the Salish Sea (this includes Puget Sound, Strait of Juan de Fuca and the Strait of Georgia), Columbia River and coastal waters, according to a Senate Democrats press release.
“They will need to take greater responsibility, at their own expense, for the safe travel of oil tankers, with updated contingency plans and proper equipment in place for a swift, effective response in the event of a spill,” the release states.
From the Senate Democrats:
Unlike the Gulf of Mexico, Puget Sound is a confined body of water, meaning an oil spill here cannot easily disperse into the open ocean. A large spill would stop marine traffic up and down the Sound. With the Puget Sound ports in Seattle and Tacoma forming the second-largest harbor in the country for container traffic, the economic ramifications could be severe.
“Our lives and livelihoods are so intertwined with our agricultural lands, forests, rivers, Sound and ocean that it’s no wonder estimated impacts are so high,“ Ranker stated. “Estimated impact from a major spill exceeds $10 billion and could affect over 165,000 jobs. We cannot afford to leave our livelihood and our future so unprotected.”
Ranker and Sen. Doug Ericksen, R-Ferndale, both voted for the bill. It appears that Reps. Kris Lytton, D-Anacortes, and Jeff Morris, D-Mount Vernon, both previously voted for a version of this bill. Reps. Vincent Buys, R-Everson, and Jason Overstreet, R-Blaine, both voted against it.
The House is expected to approve the bill, and the governor is expected to sign it, according to Senate Democrats.
Here is a summary of the bill, according to the fiscal note:
The bill would require Ecology to establish an oil spill response volunteer coordination system.
The bill would require industry to:
• Have rapid in-state access to the best available response equipment technologies;
• Fund and establish a vessels of opportunity system; and
• Participate in additional large scale oil spill readiness drills to test the oil spill contingency plans.
The bill would also require all covered vessels operating upon Washington waters to immediately notify Ecology of a vessel emergency that could result in an oil spill. The bill would also triple civil penalties for contingency plan violations, and triple the natural resource damage compensation schedule amounts for oil spills.
The bill would require some state Department of Ecology staff, as well rule making. Click here to see the fiscal note.