Inspections stripped out of spill response bill

Posted: Thursday, April 27, 2000

JUNEAU (AP) -- Rep. Ramona Barnes released an oil spill response bill Wednesday after the state's power to inspect cruise ships and other large non-tanker vessels was stripped out.

The change was the second major revision made to Senate Bill 273 since Barnes, R-Anchorage, took possession of the measure in her Special Committee on World Trade and State-Federal Affairs and its sponsor, Senate President Drue Pearce, accused Barnes, a fellow Republican, of trying to kill it on behalf of the cruise industry.

''I really don't think there was a need to have anybody boarding the boats,'' said Barnes, who said she opposed the original bill because it might drive up shipping costs for Alaska's fish, timber and minerals.

On Tuesday, Pearce agreed to delay a provision requiring the Alaska Railroad and large vessel owners to provide the Department of Environmental Conservation with a contingency plan to clean up 15 percent of their oil-carrying capacity within 48 hours of a spill.

Owners would still have to prove they could take financial responsibility for cleaning up a spill. The bill covers only ships of more than 400 gross tons, which includes cruise ships, state ferries, freighters and large fishing vessels.

A companion resolution directs a task force to study both inspections and the cost of contingency planning, and to report back to the Legislature next year.

''It's a loss,'' Pearce, R-Anchorage, said of the inspections. ''If we had a questionable ship in our waters and DEC wanted to go aboard, they might not be able to.''

However, she noted that the state and the Coast Guard have an agreement that could allow for inspections under current law.

The bill now moves to the House Finance Committee.

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