The Cook Inlet Regional Citizens Advisory Council has jumped on the bandwagon supporting new oil spill legislation.
But the legislation has nothing to do with tankers full of crude oil.
"The potential for an oil spill in Cook Inlet is not limited to crude oil tankers. Hundreds of large vessels, carrying thousands of gallons of fuel oil, transit the inlet on a regular basis," said CIRCAC Executive Director Jim Carter. "The potential for a spill from these vessels is real and needs to be addressed."
The legislation addressing spills in nontanker ships, as well as trains, comes from Sen. Drue Pearce, R-Anchorage, in the form of Senate Bill 273.
"Alaska arguably has the world's best oil spill prevention and response program. However, the current program is limited to vessels that carry oil as cargo, and onshore oil facilities such as oil wells, pipelines, refineries and tank farms," Pearce said.
Pearce also said that in the last five years, there have been 93 oil spills -- totaling 5,286 gallons -- from regulated vessels and facilities. But during that same time period there have been 945 spills -- totaling 258,000 gallons -- from nonregulated carriers.
Nontank vessels covered by SB 273 are defined as any water craft of 300 or more gross tons, with an oil storage capacity greater than 6,000 gallons.
"These vessels include larger fishing and processing vessels, cargo and cruise ships, and public vessels engaged in commerce, such as the Alaska State Ferries," Pearce said.
The bill requires those vessels to provide a response plan for cleaning up a spill as quickly as possible and requires vessel operators to provide proof of financial ability to respond to damage resulting from a spill.
Pearce said major oil spills along the Alaska Railroad system and from a large fishing vessel in Dutch Harbor illustrate the need to expand the state's oil spill response program.
"The railroad, cruise ships, large fishing vessels, container ships, along with Alaska's ferries, carry large volumes of oil and should be prepared to respond quickly in the case of a spill," Pearce said.
Carter said the legislation is long overdue.
"Every West Coast state, other than Alaska, has passed legislation requiring nontank vessels to prepare oil spill prevention and response contingency plans," Carter said. "The potential for oil spills in Cook Inlet is not limited to crude oil tankers. Hundreds of large vessels, carrying thousands of gallons of fuel oil, transit the inlet on a regular basis, (and) the potential for a spill from these vessels is real and needs to be addressed."
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