Preventing oil spills
Preventing spills is more cost-effective than response, cleanup, and restoration. We're aiming for a zero spills strategy to prevent any oil or hazardous substances from entering waters of the state. We do this work because Washington's waters are a treasured environmental and economic resource that the state can't afford to place at undue risk from an oil spill.
Prevention is the best protection
Vessels, pipelines, and trains transport oil into Washington through some of the most unique and special marine environments in the United States. These environments are a source of natural beauty, recreation, sustenance, and economic livelihood for many residents and tribal members.
Technologies for containing and cleaning up a spill of oil or hazardous substances are, at best, only partially effective. The Washington Legislature determined that spill prevention is the best method to protect marine environments.
Spill prevention at work
We employ experienced maritime professionals and engineers to carry out our mission. We can only achieve our zero spills goal through a collaborative effort with oil-handling and transportation industries. We believe the best solutions for oil spill prevention require a collective effort with our regulated community. Our regulated community consists of a variety of industries and private businesses that refine, transport, and supply oil products throughout Washington. We work directly with the oil and maritime industries, tribes, members of the public, and non-profit groups to prevent oil spills.
We collect data and conduct studies that:
- Assess risk for oil-handling and transportation industries.
- Count annual vessel entries and transits for Washington waters.
We educate and promote prevention by:
- Offering voluntary certification programs for tank ships, tank barges, and articulated tug barges through the Voluntary Best Achievable Protection / Exceptional Compliance (VBAP/ECOPRO) program.
- Providing educational materials to members of the regulated community.
- Participating in the Pacific Oil Spill Prevention Education Team (POSPET).
We uphold spill prevention regulations; we:
- Inspect vessels, facilities, and oil transfer operations.
- Provide technical outreach, design standards, and rules for oil storage, transfer, and containment facilities.
- Evaluate spill prevention plans, oil transfer operations, and oil-handler training programs.
- Investigate spill incidents and supporting enforcement actions, if needed.
Guidance for regulated oil industry.
We also maintain the rules that guide our spill prevention standards and requirements. We update them as needed to follow trends and developments in the industry and to embrace new spill prevention technologies. Our staff provide technical outreach in the form of written guidance and in-person site assessments to work directly with the regulated community on preventing spills.