Bill would allow states to adopt tough tanker standards

Posted: Thursday, May 04, 2000

WASHINGTON (AP) -- Washington and other coastal states could exceed federal regulations and enforce tougher standards on oil tankers under legislation introduced Thursday.

The identical bills introduced in the Senate by Slade Gorton, R-Wash., and in the House by Jack Metcalf, R-Wash., are in response to a March 6 Supreme Court ruling that struck down Washington state tanker regulations.

The bills would amend the Oil and Pollution Act of 1990, allowing states to write regulations on issues such as tanker maintenance and operation, as well as on qualifications of tanker company employees.

''I disagree with the Court's decision because I believe that Washington state should be allowed to protect its shores as it sees fit,'' Gorton said in a statement.

Washington state adopted standards in 1994 in response to the Exxon Valdez disaster in Alaska five years earlier.

The standards set requirements for training, English language skills, staffing, accident reporting and drug-testing of oil tanker crews, and required tankers to have certain navigation and towing equipment.

The International Association of Independent Tanker Owners, known as Intertanko, challenged the state's rules in federal court.

The U.S. government joined Intertanko in the lawsuit, arguing that Washington state's rules for staffing and operation of ocean-going tankers conflicted with the federal government's authority to adopt uniform national rules.

The Supreme Court ruled unanimously that states generally cannot set their own safety standards, except when they address unique local waterway conditions.

After the court ruling, Washington Gov. Gary Locke and State Attorney General Christine Gregoire asked President Clinton to adopt stricter federal rules regarding oil tankers.

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