Ecology oil spill rule advisory group held kick off meeting today in Lacey

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The special advisory committee providing informal comment and recommendations to help the Washington Department of Ecology (Ecology) update and improve the state’s oil spill readiness – or contingency – plan rule met in Lacey today, Thursday, March 22, for the first time.

The advisory committee will meet monthly through May 2012. All meetings are open to the public but space is limited. To help accommodate participation, the meetings also are available through webinar .

Ecology is required to enhance the state oil spill contingency plan rule by December 2012. The mandate is part of a new law passed last year by the Washington Legislature and approved by Gov. Chris Gregoire to help ensure that Washington can mount a rapid, aggressive and well coordinated response in the event of a major oil spill in Puget Sound and other state waters.

Existing state law requires oil tankers and tank vessels, commercial cargo vessels, passenger ships, refineries and large oil-handling facilities to have oil spill contingency plans to operate in Washington.

The plans outline the response actions each company will take to quickly minimize the impacts from an oil spill. Ecology reviews approves and continuously tests each plan.

During Thursday’s meeting, committee members reviewed proposed rule language designed to help oil-handling and shipping companies meet another new requirement to regularly conduct joint, large-scale oil spill readiness exercises.

The drills will help Ecology test and verify the companies’ ability to simultaneously activate multiple oil spill contingency plans to enhance Washington’s ability to quickly and effectively mount a response to a major oil spill.

Ecology has determined a significant spill could cost Washington’s economy $10.8 billion and adversely affect 165,000 jobs due to disruptions in maritime shipping and public port activities, recreation and tourism, and damage to state fish, shellfish and wildlife resources.

Details about all advisory committee meetings, including meeting dates, agendas and membership is available online.

Ecology has crafted an updated draft rule that is currently available for informal public review until May 31. The formal comment period, including public hearings, won’t start until September.

Instructions for submitting public comments on the initial draft rule are available online.

 

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