Sen. Maria Cantwell Vows to Filibuster Plan to Allow More Oil Tankers into Puget Sound
Proposal ignores interests of Washington state, increases risk of large-scale oil spill
WASHINGTON, DC – U.S. Senator Maria Cantwell (D-WA) blasted legislation introduced by Senator Ted Stevens (R-AK) that would overturn 28-year-old protections authored by former Senator Warren Magnuson limiting oil tanker traffic in the Puget Sound and vowed to keep it from moving forward. The Alaska Senator’s proposal would allow BP’s Cherry Point refinery in Whatcom County to swell into a massive export terminal for giant oil tankers, increasing the company’s profits and giving little to Washington state in return.
"The super risks of overturning the Magnuson amendment far outweigh any benefits of turning the Puget Sound into a superhighway for supertankers," said Cantwell, a member of the Senate Energy and Natural Resources Committee. "We learned valuable lessons when nearly 11 million gallons of oil that spilled in Alaska’s Prince William Sound. We don’t need to relearn them in the Puget Sound."
In 1977, Senator Warren Magnuson had the foresight to recognize the great risk that oil supertankers would have on the waters of Puget Sound. He put his findings into law and banned supertankers in the Puget Sound.
Specifically, the bill states the "Puget Sound and the shore area immediately adjacent thereto is threatened by increased domestic and international traffic of tankers carrying crude oil in bulk which increases the possibility of vessel collisions and oil spills." Former Senator Warren Magnuson of Washington state authored legislation to prevent expansion of oil terminals in Puget Sound, unless it is needed for Washington state consumers.
Earlier this year, Rep. Joe Barton (R-TX) included language in a House energy bill that would repeal the Magnuson Amendment. Cantwell wrote a letter to Speaker of the House Dennis Hastert, threatening a filibuster if it came to the Senate. The proposal was dropped after bipartisan opposition from the Washington state delegation. Now, Senator Stevens has introduced legislation to kill the entire Magnuson Amendment, renewing the threat to Puget Sound.
In a letter to Majority leader Bill Frist (R-TN), Cantwell vowed to filibuster any legislation that would repeal the Magnuson Amendment and open Puget Sound to a massive influx of supertankers.
[Text of Cantwell’s Letter to Majority Leader Frist]
November 11, 2005
The Honorable Bill First Majority Leader United States Senate 509 Hart Senate Office Building Washington, DC 20510
Dear Senator Frist:
I write to express my strong objection to Senate Bill 1977, which would expose Puget Sound waters to an unacceptably increased risk of future oil spills. We learned valuable lessons when nearly 11 million gallons of oil that spilled in Alaska’s Prince William Sound. We don’t need to relearn them in the Puget Sound.
Specifically, S. 1977 strikes a provision added by former Washington State Senator and Commerce Committee Chairman Warren Magnuson to the Marine Mammal Protection Act limiting the expansion of Puget Sound refinery terminals or docks unless it is needed by Washington state consumers. A similar oil industry-requested provision was added to the Gasoline for America’s Security Act of 2005 (H.R. 3893) but was removed by House leadership after it received vehement bipartisan opposition from the Washington state delegation.
Currently, about 600 tankers and over 3,000 oil barges a year travel through Puget Sound to service our state's refineries. Our state bears more than its fair share of burden of the production and distribution of oil products. In fact, Washington state facilities refine more than double the petroleum products that we need to meet our state’s demand and, according to press reports, some of those petroleum products were recently exported to overseas markets, despite elevated local prices. The Energy Information Administration also reports exportation of petroleum products occur each year in significant amounts. While the stated purpose of S. 1977 may be to increase supplies of gasoline to the American market, forcing more oil tankers through the already extremely congested Puget Sound is strongly opposed by area residents. Moreover the Magnuson amendment does not prevent refineries from expanding and they have grown significantly over the past few decades.
As Senator Magnuson stated 28 years ago, the "navigable waters and the natural resources of the Puget Sound are a fragile and valuable national asset," that deserve a balanced level of protection. Magnuson’s wise judgment is as relevant today as it was in 1977. The super risks of overturning the Magnuson amendment far outweigh any benefits of turning the Puget Sound into a superhighway for supertankers.
Mr. Majority Leader, this is a state specific issue, and I have heard loud and clear from my constituents that they strongly oppose any efforts to overturn or erode this critical protection. Therefore, if any attempt is made to move forward on S.1977, I will use every procedural option granted to me as a United States Senator to stop this unfortunate and misguided legislation from becoming law.
This was a bad idea when it was stopped in the House last month, and it is a bad idea now.
United States Senator
Next Article Previous Article