Legislature(1999 - 2000)
04/28/2000 04:20 PM FIN
* first hearing in first committee of referral
= bill was previously heard/scheduled
= bill was previously heard/scheduled
HOUSE CS FOR CS FOR SENATE BILL NO. 273(RES) An Act regarding oil discharge prevention, and relating to contingency plans and proof of financial responsibility for all self-propelled non-tank vessels exceeding 400 gross registered tonnage and for railroad tank cars; and providing for an effective date. SEANTOR DRUE PEARCE stated that Alaska has the world's best oil spill prevention and response program. The current program is limited to vessels that carry oil as cargo and on-shore oil facilities such as oil wells, pipelines, refineries and tank farms. Most of Alaska's oil spills come from carriers that are currently not required to prepare for spill response. Since 1995, 93 spills totaling 5,286 gallons of oil came from regulated vessels and facilities. During the same period, 945 spills totaling 258,000 gallons oil came from non- regulated carriers. SB 273 will expand the prevention and response program to include larger non-tank vessels and the railroads transporting oil in bulk. Senator Pearce continued, specifically, non-tank vessels covered by the bill are defined as self-propelled watercraft of 400 or greater gross registered tons. These vessels include larger fishing and processing vessels, cargo and cruise ships and public vessels engaged in commerce such as the Alaska State ferries. SB 273 would establish the spill response planning standard of containment and control up to 15 percent of the vessel's maximum capacity within 48 hours, and clean up the spill as quickly as possible with minimal damage to the environment. SB 273 would require the vessels and the Railroad to provide proof of financial ability to respond to damage resulting from a spill. Senator Pearce noted that SB 273 would establish a task force to study and report back to the Legislature by the first day of next session on how to achieve the planning standard in a way that minimizes any potential adverse impacts to industry. She commented that Alaska is the only state on the West Coast that has not extended it's contingency plan and financial responsibility laws to include non-tank vessels. In light of recent spills from these vessels and from the Railroad on the land, it is time to strengthen oil spill laws. SB 273 would provide a heightened awareness of prevention and response readiness and would reduce the number of consequences of oil spills in the future. Vice Chair Bunde asked why concerns on the compliance issues had been voiced. Senator Pearce replied that inspections are presently required in law, however, the inspection portion of the bill was deleted in one of the committees. She added that inspections had always been done in concert with the National Coast Guard inspection team. There has never been a boarding by Department of Environmental Conservation following a complaint by the ship boarded. She acknowledged that she did not understand the concern regarding inspections, reiterating that it had been deleted from the bill. Representative Phillips noted that the World Trade Committee amended the bill taking out the inspections because the scope of the bill did not deal with ships providing proof of financial ability. The inspection process was not needed for that. Instead, it was added to the task force purview so to address procedures and regulations for dealing with the inspections. She emphasized that it would be covered. Representative J. Davies asked if a table had been prepared for the Alaska Railroad Corporation. Senator Pearce replied it had not. She noted that before the bill was introduced, the Commissioner had already been in negotiations with the Railroad. There was a verbal understanding that they would return with a completed contingency plan. Representative Austerman commented that he had received calls regarding impact to the U.S. Navy vessels. He understood that the potentially the Department of Environmental Conservation could impose requirements too strict on the Navy. Co-Chair Therriault pointed out that there was a memo in member's packets indicating that the Department must work in cooperation with the Navy. Co-Chair Mulder stated that currently under regulations, the type of ships referenced by Representative Austerman are not able to come up singularly into the State waters of Alaska without being accompanied. He asked the intention of Department when dealing with the U.S. Navy and potential future problem. MICHELE BROWN, (TESTIFIED VIA TELECONFERENCE), COMMISSIONER, DEPARTMENT OF ENVIRONMENTAL CONSERVATION, ANCHORAGE, replied that the Department had spoken with General Case of the Alaska Command, and Admiral Marshall's Chief of Staff, Admiral Barrett from the U.S. Coast Guard. The Department knows that the issue must be addressed, as the ships can not come into Alaska without being accompanied by tankers. She noted that there is a Statement of Cooperation written and in place, which allows the Department to work with the military when there is conflict with State law. Commissioner Brown pointed out that the intent is to have a plan in place which mirrors the federal standard. The tools to address these topics are already available under the Department's State Water Quality Standards. She stressed that a good solution is available. Representative Austerman asked if it was correct that two vessels would be required to accompany any given vessel at the same time because of discharge. Commissioner Brown understood that the Navy's concern was that in order to de- balance, they would need an accompanying vessel. She knew that was a financial concern for the Navy. Representative Austerman questioned if there had been dialogue regarding that concern. He requested all correspondence with the U.S. Navy regarding patrolling of outside waters. Representative J. Davies referenced the overview and the statement that "government owned and operated vessels that are not engaged in commerce" would be exempt. He asked if that language was related to an earlier draft. PAT CARTER, STAFF, SENATOR DRUE PEARCE, replied that the only State operated ships engaged in commerce are the ferries. "Government" refers to State or federal government. Representative Williams questioned how the statement of cooperation would work with the Navy. Commissioner Brown explained that statement began between the State and all federal services several years ago. It is a framework document which clarifies how to interact on issues of concern. The group meets at least once a year to go over issues. Co-Chair Therriault pointed out that Section #6 allows the Department to draft regulations before the bill becomes effective so that the regulations and the bill can go into effect at the same time. Representative Phillips congratulated the Department of Environmental Conservation for lowering the note by $10 thousand dollars. Co-Chair Mulder emphasized that the fiscal number is inflated and should be considered temporary. Representative Phillips clarified that the initial fiscal note was for $338 thousand dollars and a $130 dollar note for the task force. Co-Chair Mulder MOVED to report HCS CS SB 273 (WTR) out of Committee with individual recommendations and with the accompanying fiscal notes. Vice Chair Bunde OBJECTED for the purpose of making a comment. He stated that oil tankers out of Valdez are paying for their own inspections. He advised that is something to "look forward to in the future". TOM RUETER, (TESTIFIED VIA TELECONFERENCE), NORTH STAR TERMINAL, ANCHORAGE, testified on the legislation. He stated that he looked forward to working with the task force. He voiced concern with the cost of the practical application of the legislation. There being NO further OBJECTION, the bill passed from Committee. Co-Chair Therriault noted that the bill would require a title change, HCR 28. He noted it would appear on the calendar with the legislation. HCS CS SB 273 (WTR) was reported out of Committee with a "do pass" recommendation and with the accompanying fiscal notes by Department of Environmental Conservation dated 4/6/00 and Department of Community & Economic Development dated 4/17/00.