The House and Senate have passed ESHB 1578 and it is likely to be sent to the governor soon. This bill specifies permit requirements for oil tankers, requires tug escorts, assesses threats of oil tankers to Orcas and other wildlife in straits. It passed the House 70-28 and the Senate by 32-13.
The bill’s sponsor, Rep. Debra Lekanoff (D – Skokomish), supported the amended bill, mentioning the role indigenous people of Washington and Alaska had in drafting some of the amendments. She said indigenous people are involved in responding to oil spills such as the Exxon Valdez incident. She emphasized the bipartisan support for bill in House.
A representative of the Governor’s office supported the bill as a means of protecting Orcas, and said it would permit the government to assess threats to smaller straits in the Salish Sea. Pilotage Commissioners and Department of Ecology representatives supported the bill as a means of protecting the Orcas. Several elementary school students testified in favor of the Orcas and climate action.
A Western States Petroleum Association representative supported the revised bill and noted that some mitigation measures were added with house amendments. Washington Environmental Council and Washington Conservation Voters representatives supported bill with reservations about House amendments removing emergency measures. A Makah tribe representative supported bill but reminded senators of 1855 treaty language, and called for making the language of the bill ethnically neutral. A Sierra Club representative mentioned that oil spills can be disastrous to entire Salish Sea; he mentioned past oil spills that had devastated the Salish Sea. A Department of Natural Resources representative supported the bill, in particular pilotage and other safeguards. A Pacific Merchant Shipping Association was neutral on the bill but expressed concern about role of merchant shippers in shaping regulations under bill. A representative of the Tulalip Tribes supported the bill.