Wednesday, April 20, 2011

One year later: oil spill lessons learned

A year ago today, the Deepwater Horizon oil rig exploded in the Gulf of Mexico, the tragic start to what would become the largest marine oil spill in history. The economy and quality of life in the Gulf region will take decades to recover fully.

With the stroke of the governor's pen this afternoon, Washington became the first state in the country to pass significant new environmental legislation to reflect the lessons learned from the BP disaster.

“Our citizens expect us to be able to respond quickly and effectively in the case of a large oil spill. To do so is key to protecting our quality of life and our economy here in Washington state, from the Columbia River to Puget Sound," said Rep. Christine Rolfes of Bainbridge Island, the prime sponsor of HB 1186. "This bill will help maintain our state’s evergreen legacy.”

Rolfes' bill puts a series of expanded and new responsibilities on oil companies that operate in Puget Sound, the Columbia River, coastal waters and the Strait of Juan de Fuca. They will need to take greater responsibility, at their own expense, for the safe travel of oil tankers, with updated contingency plans and proper equipment in place for a swift, effective response in the event of a spill.

Unlike the Gulf of Mexico, Puget Sound is a confined body of water, meaning an oil spill here cannot easily disperse into the open ocean. A large spill would stop marine traffic up and down the Sound. Although Washington doesn't have offshore drilling as in the Gulf of Mexico, each year about 4,000 tankers deliver 15 billion gallons of oil via Washington waterways.

More information is here.

Check out this video with Reps. Rolfes, Upthegrove and Hudgins about oil spill response efforts: