Rule implementation

In 2019 we conducted rulemaking to update two rules — Chapter 173-182 WAC, Oil Spill Contingency Plan Rule and Chapter 173-186 Oil Spill Contingency Plan - Railroad. The effective date of both rules is Jan. 18, 2020. 

The rules require large commercial vessels, oil handling facilities, pipelines, and railroads to have detailed contingency plans and contracts for appropriate equipment and trained personnel to respond to spills that may occur.

Contingency plan update requirements 

Six month phase-in - July 18, 2020

We're currently accepting applications for review and approval of spill management teams (SMT) and wildlife response service providers (WRSP). These entities must be approved by the state before regulated plan holders can cite them in contingency plans to help them meet the planning standard requirements.

12 month phase-in - Jan. 18, 2021

Read Ecology’s response to public comments on the 12 month phase-in period for WAC 173-182

Vessel, facility and pipeline contingency plan holders must update their plans to demonstrate the necessary contracts, equipment, people, and training to meet the new planning requirements. 

For more details to help you meet the review deadline, please see the following resources: Plan Holder Implementation Guidance and Chapter 173-182 WAC Plan Review Checklist.

Ecology has created sample plan sections to assist plan holders in meeting the requirements of the updated rule. Please refer to these sample sections for guidance or clarification on how to draft an approval plan section for the following requirements: Sample Wildlife Section; Sample Non-Floating Oil Section; Sample Air Monitoring Section; Sample Shoreline Cleanup Section.

  • Access the updated binding agreement form
  • Contracted access to, and the contact information for, spill management teams and wildlife response service providers. (WAC 173-182-230 (3)(e))
  • Full description of the spill management teams, both internal to the company and external  (WAC 173-182-280)
  • Facility:  new equipment standards for two hour assessment and six hours access to specialized equipment (WAC 173-182-355)
  • Facility standard: shoreline cleanup (173-182-522)
  • Field document update: a new form to document notifications made according to the plan’s procedures, and add language on equipment used to detect and assess spills to the existing procedures (WAC 173-182-240(2)).  Your notification lists should also include contact information for spill management teams and wildlife response service providers.
  • Commitment to participate in a large scale equipment deployment drill (WAC 173-182-710(6)).
  • Planning standards for air monitoring to protect oil spill responders and the public (WAC 173-182-535).
  • Planning standards for in situ burning (WAC 173-182-330).
  • Planning standards for dispersants (WAC 173-182-325).
  • Planning standard for spills of oils that, depending on their chemical properties, environmental factors (weathering), and method of discharge, may submerge or sink (WAC 173-182-324).
  • Planning standards for wildlife response (WAC 173-182-540 (1), (2)(a), (b), (c), (e) and (f), (3), and (4)).

18 month phase-in -  July 18, 2021

All plan holders (vessels, facilities, pipelines and railroads) must update their plans to include details about resources at risk from potentially non-floating oil spills. This requirement may be achieved through referencing updated Geographic Response Plans. Over the next 18 months Ecology will work to expand the spatial scope of GRPs to include the water column and benthic species at risk from non-floating oil spills. Ecology took on this key work because we recognize the value of stakeholder input and consider locals and tribes as essential partners in ensuring that GRPs are successful and useful. 

Vessel plan holders that enroll for contingency plan coverage under a umbrella contingency plan or a multi-vessel contingency plan must list an approved spill management team in their enrollment. The spill management team may be a contracted team or an in-house team.  

Type A and B railroads contingency plan holders must update their plans to meet the updated requirements. Sample plan language, review checklists, and other technical assistance tools will be linked here as they become available.

Type C railroad contingency plan holders must send a letter to ecology stating that the plan is complete and still meets all of the requirements. Current approved plans should not require any changes. 

24 month phase-in - January 18, 2022

Vessels and facilities that operate or transit in areas with the potential to impact whales, including Southern Resident killer whales, must have access to vessels of opportunity, equipment, and personnel to conduct monitoring, and deterrence operations to prevent whales from encountering spilled oil. 

The term vessel of opportunity (VOO) describes an organized system to preregister volunteer boat operators who can be quickly activated after a spill occurs and tasked with specialized response actions that supplement the fleets of professional spill responders. Before a spill, the participants will have varying levels of involvement as a volunteer, but once a spill occurs and the VOOs are activated, the boat operators will be paid. Creating a curriculum to improve and increase the preregistration and the number of trainings is a fundamental step to ensure the long term recovery of the Southern Resident killer whales.

Over the next few years Ecology will work collaboratively with USFWS, NMFS, NOAA, WDFW, and regulated plan holders to develop a training program for VOO vessels to support marine mammal deterrent operations. Initially outreach will be targeted to whale watching vessels but interested vessel owners are encouraged to sign up at

Once the pool of available vessels is identified, plan holders, or as applicable primary response contractors acting on behalf of plan holders, will vet the vessels and create a plan for contracting, call out, outfitting, and training.