GLO Solicits Commenb On Oil Spill Legislation

A proposed regulation requiring more vessels operating in Texas coastal waters to maintain oil spill prevention and response plans was recently published in the Texas Register by the General Land Office (GLO). Publication of the proposed rule marks the beginning of a public comment period, which ends March 2, 1998. The rule, which supports the Texas Oil Spill Prevention and Response Act of 1991 (OSPRA), covers vessels capable of carrying 10,000 gallons or more of oil as fuel or cargo and which are not required to have federal or international response plans. Vessels which will be affected by the rule include larger shrimp and commercial fishing vessels, offshore workboats, supply boats, crew boats, tugs and push boats, dredges, public vessels, research and recreational vessels. "It is vital that we receive input from the individuals who will be affected by this rule," said Garry Mauro, Texas land commissioner. "A large percentage of vessel-related oil spills are preventable and that is one focus of this rule: Taking more preventive measures to reduce the risks of spills. The end result can be cost effective for all entities involved, state and private, when measured against the cost and repercussions for cleaning a spill. This rule will also help to further strengthen our posture of deterrence and readiness in dealing with oil spills and protecting the natural resources of the Texas coast." Some key aspects of the proposed rule are: •Vessels which already have prevention and response plans that meet the intent of the rule may be deemed in compliance.

Vessel owners who are unsure whether their plan satisfies the new rule may request a plan review by the GLO; •Vessels will be required to carry onboard spill response information to prompt spill response actions; •The GLO will provide forms for vessels that do not currently have a plan in place and do not wish to develop their own format for a new plan; •Vessels will not be required to submit any information to the GLO. The agency will check compliance with the regulation in the field during spill response and routine harbor patrols; and •Vessels that choose to implement voluntary spill prevention measures may benefit from reduced penalty actions for unauthorized discharges of oil.

Written comments on the proposed rule and its economic impact may be submitted to Carol Milner, General Land Office, Legal Services Division, 1700 North Congress Ave., Austin, Texas 78701-1495.

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