Washington: Oil Transfer Rules Working

Since Washington's stringent oil transfer rules went into effect, the Department of Ecology has seen reductions in the amount of oil spilled. In 2008, only about 158 gallons were spilled to Washington waters during fuel transfers.

"Puget Sound is an ecosystem in trouble and no spills are acceptable," said Spills Program Manager Dale Jensen. "The Legislature acknowledged this by setting a ‘zero spills' goal for the state."

State regulations require up to 24-hour advance notice whenever bulk oil transfers of more than 100 gallons occur over state waters from certain types of facilities such as refineries, refueling terminals, railcars, tank trucks, and all vessels delivering oil. Last year Ecology received 15,111 advance notices of fuel transfer reports, about twice as many as originally anticipated when the rules went into effect.

In October 2007, the regulations required all vessels delivering oil and the state's 23 major land-based, large-volume oil handling facilities to deploy containment boom equipment before starting oil transfers over water at rates of 500 gallons per minute or more.

The "pre-booming" requirements cover petroleum and plant-based fuel products such as crude oil, diesel and bio-diesel fuel, and heavy fuel oils.

The agency determined that high-rate fuel transfers over water presents the highest risk of a sizeable oil spill. The rules gave high-rate deliverers a year to craft plans showing how they would comply with the new measure.

By the end of 2008, almost 80 percent of all high-rate transfers required to be pre-boomed were pre-boomed.

To support the new rules Ecology expanded its oil transfer inspection program and stationed five new inspectors at its Bellingham, Bellevue and Vancouver field offices. The agency inspectors provide technical assistance and help companies comply with the rules. Last year, inspectors conducted 1,491 oil transfer inspections.

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