Cantwell to oil companies: Respond or else

By:  John Connelly
Source: Seattle PI

A new bill by Sen. Maria Cantwell, D-Wash., requires the oil drilling
industry to continually integrate the latest technologies and the best available
technology into oil spill prevention and response plans.

Reps. Jay Inslee, D-Wash., and Dave Reichert, R-Wash., introduced similar
legislation in the House of Representatives last week.

“We’ve seen over the past 20 years that the industry will not do it on its own: From Exxon Valdez to Deepwater Horizon, Congress has had to intervene and respond,” Cantwell said in announcing the legislation.

“The sad truth is that if BP had the latest technologies in place this
spring, the Deepwater Horizon disaster might not have occurred, or, if it did, a
great deal of the damage could have been mitigated.

“These companies prepare fully for how to best extract resources and maximize
their profits. They use technology to the fullest there.”

Cantwell is no stranger to this issue.

In 2006, she threatened a Senate filibuster when then-Sen. Ted Stevens,
R-Alaska, tried to remove a size limit that keeps supertankers out of
Washington’s inland waters and such protections as a tug escort requirement.
Stevens backed down.

A recent Coast Guard authorization bill, written by a subcommittee chaired by
Cantwell, expands federal oil spill response requirements all the way out the
Strait of Juan de Fuca to Cape Flattery.

All six senators from Washington, Oregon and California have signed onto
legislation that would permanently ban oil drilling off the West Coast. And
Cantwell has a pending amendment to require by law a full, top-to-bottom third
party certification of drilling systems.

The shipping industry and Coast Guard have long touted their vessel control
system in the Strait of Juan de Fuca and inland waters.

Lately, however, concern has been raised over rising oil tanker traffic out
of Burrard Inlet in British Columbia. Tankers traveling to and from a B.C.
pipeline terminus also traverse the Strait of Juan de Fuca.

The Trans-Mountain Pipeline carries 300,000 barrels of crude oil from Alberta
to Burnaby’s Westridge Terminal each day.

The terminal, located just east of Vancouver, is exporting 10 times the
amount of oil it did a decade ago, with shipments this year running 77 percent
ahead of 2009.

“Given the horrific scene we have witnessed in the Gulf of Mexico, more and
questions are being raised about the current situation in Vancouver,
the safety standards in place and the long term plans for Burrard Inlet,”
Vancouver Mayor Gregor Robertson
said last week.