Changes to state environmental regulations proposed by the state Department of Ecology (Ecology) should reduce the risk of oil spills into Washington's waters during oil transfers.
Aiming for a goal of zero oil spills, Ecology developed the draft "rules" with a special advisory committee made up of the oil industry and other citizen advocates.
Changes in state oil-transfer regulations were requested by the 2004 Legislature following the Dec. 30, 2003, spill of 4,700 gallons of heavy oil into Puget Sound while a tank barge was receiving oil cargo from a Richmond Beach oil-storage facility near Seattle.
"We believe these new standards can make a significant difference in the amount of oil that is both catastrophically and cumulatively dripped, leaked and spilled into our waters," said Dale Jensen, manager of Ecology's spills program.
Jensen said his agency is in the early stages of working with the many industries affected by the changes. "We want to get advice about what changes make sense," he said. "We are still touching bases with many sectors in the oil-transfer world, such as small marinas and other fueling facilities, so we still have a lot of work ahead to be inclusive."
Jensen said Ecology is not seeking public comments on the changes yet, but that it would in the coming months.
Annually, billions of gallons of oil are transferred in thousands of separate transactions at hundreds of locations across the state. Most of these transfers take place over or near water. Each poses a risk to the environment that can be reduced or eliminated through prevention and response measures.
The proposed changes include:
Advance notice to the state prior to oil transfers over state waters.
New guidance about
"pre-booming," which is the pre-positioning of oil-containment devices in the water to contain and collect oil before it can spread and hit the shoreline.
Improved training for oil deliverers, and more response equipment kept on hand at transfer locations.
Expand oil-spill prevention and response planning to include mobile operations (tank trucks).
Set simple standards for response and training at marinas and small facilities that deliver fuel to commercial vessels.
The new rules do not affect recreational or pleasure boats. Ecology's "Spills Aren't Slick" campaign targets this group. Ecology has sent posters to marinas across the state with advice to report all spills immediately by calling 800-OILS-911.
Ecology's goal is to finalize the oil-transfer rule by June 2006.