House OKs change in spill response plan law

Posted: Thursday, April 04, 2002

JUNEAU (AP) -- A bill that changes the state's oil spill prevention and cleanup laws in response to a Supreme Court ruling passed the House of Representatives on Wednesday.

Some Democrat legislators objected to the bill because they said it removes a requirement that companies have the best available technology to prevent or cleanup oil spills.

''We should have higher goals than this,'' said Rep. Eric Croft, R-Anchorage. ''We should not take this step back.''

But Rep. Joe Green, R-Anchorage, said the measure calls for use of the best technology that is appropriate and effective in Alaska's environment, and it relies on experts -- the state's environmental regulators -- to determine what that is.

''The people who are watching those activities are obviously the most reliable,'' Green said.

The state Supreme Court earlier this year found that the Department of Environmental Conservation was not clearly complying with a law that requires companies to use the best available technology in oil spill prevention and response plans.

The department had regulations that considered a company to be using the ''best technology'' in some cases if its plan would meet oil spill response standards called for in another place in the law. Those standards call for cleaning up a certain amount of oil within a certain period of time.

The department had urged the Legislature to address the court decision because it raised questions about the validity of more than 100 contingency plans companies must have to operate.

Senate Bill 343, sponsored by the Senate Resources Committee, simply rewrites the law to make clear that the standards the department has been using meet the best available technology requirement.

The measure passed 29-8, with Reps. Ethan Berkowitz, Sharon Cissna, Harry Crawford, John Davies, Reggie Joule, Mary Kapsner and Beth Kerttula and Croft voting no. Reps. Albert Kookesh, Gary Stevens and Scott Ogan were absent.

Joule gave notice of reconsideration, so the bill may come up for a vote again Thursday.

The bill has already passed the Senate, so if the outcome does not change Thursday, the measure will go to the governor's desk for signature or veto.

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