Department of Ecology News Release - August 7, 2019

Changes proposed to strengthen oil spill requirements for facilities, vessels and pipelines

Updated requirements will protect people, wildlife and the environment

A regulated oil handling facility and vessel operating on the Hylebos Waterway in Tacoma.
OLYMPIA  –  An oil spill could pose a significant threat to the environment, people and local economies. In Washington, large oil handling facilities, vessels, and pipelines are required to have oil spill contingency plans to ensure they are adequately prepared in case of a spill. 

In 2018, the Legislature passed a bill directing the Washington Department of Ecology to amend the Oil Spill Contingency Plan Rule.

The proposed amendments would help bring requirements in line with the increased movement of oil across Washington and the changing nature of spills. One specific area of concern is cleanup of sinking oils. Transport of sinking oils is becoming more common in the state and these oils are difficult to clean up if spilled. Other concerns include requirements for spill management teams that direct the response efforts, and wildlife teams that deter, rescue and rehabilitate birds, mammals and other wildlife affected by a spill.

Through the rulemaking process, Ecology is proposing amendments that would:
  • Establish requirements for Ecology to review and approve independent spill management teams.
  • Require increased capability for responding to spills of oils that may submerge or sink.
  • Require vessel, facility and pipeline contingency plan holders to participate in a complex, large-scale drill.
  • Update contingency plan requirements so vessels and facilities have consistent standards for training, operations and response technology.
  • Establish standards for oiled wildlife response service providers.

This rulemaking is separate from the current effort to update changes to oil spill response requirements for railroads. However, both efforts are being conducted on a similar timeline. 

The public is invited to weigh in on these changes through Oct. 6, 2019. There will be a public hearing for this rule proposal in Everett, another in Spokane, and one in Vancouver that will also be an online webinar. For full information about dates and times, visit Ecology’s website


Contact information

Ty Keltner
Twitter: ecologywa