For two decades, Friends of the Earth (FoE) has worked with federal, state, tribal and local partners leading efforts to protect Puget Sound communities and marine life from ship-sourced pollution, including oil spills as well as air and water discharges from cruise ships, cargo ships and oil tankers. Regardless of whether the Trans Mountain pipeline expansion project is completed (which would result in a 700% increase in dilbit tankers transiting through the endangered killer whale’s critical habitat), there is an urgent need to update the State’s tug escort and oil spill response plan rules to address existing risks and to prevent the extinction of the endangered Southern Resident Killer Whale community.
As part of FoE’s ongoing effort to catalog and publicize the movement of oil in, out and within Puget Sound, this project continues with a focus on how Washington State can increase our ability to prevent and respond to oil spills. We are seeking funding to enhance oil spill prevention and response capabilities for barges and other smaller oil carriers not subject to the safety measures required of large oil tankers transiting the Salish Sea. In addition to our focus on preventing oil spills from vessels transporting diluted bitumen (dilbit) between Burnaby, B.C. through Puget Sound to the U.S. Oil refinery in Tacoma (Washington’s primary destination for this uniquely challenging oil to clean up), this project will also advance the capacity to respond to oil spills from all types of commercial vessels that can carry up to two million gallons of fuel. Finally, two State rulemakings will occur in early 2019, and FoE’s participation in these rulemakings and other state processes (e.g. the Governor’s Orca Task Force vessel safety working group) are essential to ensuring the highest level of protection for the Salish Sea.