The Strengthening Oil Transportation Safety Act, E2SSB 6269, takes steps to enhance the safety of marine transportation and protect the state’s waters from oil spills. It places an emphasis on improving readiness to respond to sinking and submerging oils. The bill specifically directs our Spills Program to address multiple policy initiatives.
More than 20 billion gallons of oil is transported through Washington each year by vessel, pipeline, and rail. Some of this is heavy oil that may sink in water, depending on conditions. The new law places an emphasis on improving readiness to respond to heavy oils.
In consultation with the Board of Pilotage Commissioners and the Puget Sound Partnership, we've completed a report and recommendations on vessel traffic and vessel traffic safety in the Strait of Juan de Fuca and Puget Sound.
The Act required us to base the report on current and existing information. It also directed us to gather input from tribes and stakeholders.
The report assesses and evaluates the following:
The report includes recommendations about vessel traffic management and vessel traffic safety, in addition to tug escorts and emergency response systems.
The first annual Salish Sea Shared Waters Forum was held in Bellingham in October 2018. The goal of these meetings is to work with our Canadian partners to address common issues in the Salish Sea related to oil spill prevention, preparedness, and response.
All levels of government on both sides of the border, Tribes, First Nations, environmental groups, and industry were invited, and over 150 participants attended. The first Forum focused on advancing collective knowledge about current policies and practices and potential safeguards and began a cross-border conversation about:
The Forum serves as a platform for open dialogue to exchange information regarding minimizing the risk and impacts of spills in the Salish Sea. It is a non-voting and non-decision-making entity. The Pacific States/British Columbia Oil Spill Task Force, of which Washington and British Columbia are founding members, worked with Ecology and the B.C. Ministry of Environment and Climate Change to establish and hold the Forum.
Deliverable: Hold at least one facilitated meeting per year until July 2021.
To address oils that may submerge or sink in water, we will require:
In January 2019, we initiated rulemaking to update oil spill contingency plan standards in order to implement these requirements. Ecology evaluated the first industry-hosted joint drill in October 2018 to address oils that may submerge or sink.
Deliverables: Adopted rules, updated contingency plans, and approved spill management team applications by December 2019.
We've begun to update geographic response plans (GRPs) to identify water column and subsurface resources that could be harmed by oils that submerge or sink. A progress report will be provided to the Legislature. Community input will be part of the update process.
Under the Act, our oil transfer inspectors continue their existing work and are also prioritizing and conducting specialized reviews and inspections of oil transfer operations involving oils that may submerge or sink. This includes oil transfers for vessels at-anchor.
We've started work on a report to the Legislature regarding spill program activities and funding.
The report must include:
Deliverable: Report to the Legislature by July 1, 2020, with recommendations on program activities and funding.
In addition, the Legislature through the 2018 State Supplemental Operating Budget provided the resources to conduct rulemaking regarding contingency plans for short-line railroads that transport non-fuel oils, per ESHB 1136. We are currently developing a timeline for this work.
Project Manager & Statewide Resources Section Manager
Legislative/Strategic Policy Analyst