(9 January 2003 -- Washington) Environmental Defense today praised new legislative efforts to speed up the adoption of double-hulled oil tankers in U.S. waters, and expressed support for anticipated legislation known as the "Stop Oil Spills (S.O.S.) Act", to be introduced by Representative Lois Capps (D-CA).
As the U.S. Senate holds hearings today before the Committee on Commerce, Science, and Transportation to evaluate the continued use of single-hulled tankers, heavy fuel oil from the 26-year-old single-hulled tanker Prestige, which sank off the coast of Spain in November, 2002, continues to wash ashore, damaging marine life and local fisheries on the coastlines of France, Spain, and Portugal.
"The only effective way to avoid oil damage to fisheries and the coastal environment is to prevent these tanker spills in the first place," said Richard Charter, marine conservation advocate with Environmental Defense. "To permit the use of just one thin single sheet of steel to keep huge volumes of toxic petroleum away from the valuable living marine resources on which our coastal economies depend is an obsolete transportation strategy. Recent events make it crystal clear that the time has come to accelerate the transition to double-hulled tankers."
Today's congressional hearing is being held to consider the potential need for revisions to the Oil Pollution Act of 1990, which was adopted by Congress in response to the tragic 1989 Exxon Valdez oil spill in Alaska's Prince William Sound. Oil from the Exxon Valdez spill continues to pollute Alaskan waters and is still found on the rocky cobbled beaches of the Sound.
Eleventh-hour changes were made in 1990 to the federal Oil Pollution Act at the request of the oil industry, extending the permissible date for continued use of many existing single-hulled tankers in U.S waters until 2015 by "grandfathering" the ongoing utilization of these high-risk vessels. Rep. Capps' new "Stop Oil Spills Act" will require, among other needed safety measures, the phase out of all remaining single-hulled tankers in U.S. waters by 2005.