Panel targets railroad and ships

Posted: Tuesday, December 12, 2000

ANCHORAGE (AP) -- A legislative-appointed panel is recommending that cargo ships, cruise ships and other large vessels and the Alaska Railroad have spill-response plans and stockpile cleanup gear around the state.

The spill response and cleanup recommendations are aimed at oceangoing vessels other than tankers, which already are regulated, that carry large volumes of fuel. They're also aimed at the Alaska Railroad, which can haul well over 100,000 gallons of fuel in tanker cars on a single train.

Among the recommendations by the task force on oil transport:

--Vessel owners would have to keep enough boom to extend three times the vessel's length, have it available within 24 hours and maintain skimmers capable of cleaning up 15 percent of a vessel's maximum oil load within five days.

The recommendations would apply to oceangoing ships larger than 400 gross tons that operate within state waters, generally meaning within 3 miles of shore. Spill response capabilities could be contracted with another company.

--The proposed legislation would establish 10 regions of the state. Vessel owners and the railroad would have to position spill containment and cleanup equipment in each region in which they operate, or show that they can get it there within 24 hours.

--The Alaska Railroad's spill response and cleanup efforts would fall under existing laws governing oil transportation industries. The railroad would have to show it has equipment and manpower available to contain and control 15 percent of its maximum oil load within two days.

--Vessel owners would designate a person to be in charge of spill response, with the authority to spend enough money to make it happen.

The proposals and an attached draft bill were approved unanimously Monday by members of the task force, which includes industry representatives, state environmental officials and two state lawmakers.

Senate President Drue Pearce, R-Anchorage, said she was pleased with the product of the task force's six-month effort.

She said chances for passage of the new bill, which will add teeth and regulations to the original, are excellent.

The new bill has a major advantage the old one lacked: backing from many of the companies and interests it will regulate.

''Nobody ever asks to be regulated,'' Pearce said. But shipping interests and the railroad have had a voice in setting parameters for the proposed legislation and at calculating its likely costs.

Pearce said the state's costs should be paid for by the state, with no additional fees imposed on the industries.

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