Rep. Christine Rolfes said Tuesday that she wants to improve oil spill response in Puget Sound and she wants industry to pay for it.
Rolfes, D-Bainbridge Island, announced that she already has support from other House Democrats for a bill she plans to introduce this week to require tanker companies establish a volunteer coordination system, invest in more advanced oil spill response equipment and contract with local commercial vessels to help should a spill occur.
“My biggest concern was watching the BP spill,” said Rolfes, who serves as vice chairwoman of the House Environment Committee. “I would like our state and our industry working together to make sure that if a disaster like that happens here we’ve done everything we can.”
Rolfes said she had secured the support of 14 other representatives to be co-sponsors of the bill.
Rep. Shelly Short, the ranking Republican on the Environment Committee, said she would be reluctant to support a measure like this without evidence that the oil spill response system the state has in place needed improvements.
“I really wonder if this is necessary at this time given the economy, given jobs,” Short said. “This doesn’t provide much certainty to industry.”
Curt Hart, a spokesman for the Spill Prevention, Preparedness and Response Program in the state Ecology Department, said the program had long supported the initiatives proposed in Rolfes’ announcement, including that industry help pay for oil spill preparedness.
Hart said the threat of oil spills in the Puget Sound area was real given the volume of tanker traffic that uses the area’s waterways.
He said the Ecology Department spill program receives about 3,800 reports of spills in the area per year and responds to about 1,200.
“If we had a major spill in Washington, the economic, cultural and environmental costs in our state would be astronomical,” Hart said.
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