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New Coastal Bulk Terminals Bring New Spill Risks

Elected and civic leaders in Washington State are increasingly concerned about huge increases in the quantity of oil and coal being hauled across the state. A new study by the Puget Sound Partnership suggests they may have good reason to fret.

The study warns, that without stringent new risk management tools in Puget Sound and surrounding waters, oil spills could jump by as much as 68 percent because of additional shipping traffic generated by new Washington and BC commodity terminals.

The frequency of maritime collisions could rise by 18 percent as more tanker and container ships squeeze into west coast ports through the Strait of Juan de Fuca.

Researchers concentrated on three proposed terminals in advanced stages of permitting by federal and state agencies - the Cherry Point Washington coal terminal, a pipeline project in Vancouver BC to transport Bakken crude, and a coal, grain and container terminal in Delta Port, BC.

Scott Ferguson, the spills prevention manager for the Washington Department of Ecology, said the study was meant to examine - as he put it - various what-if scenarios, what happens when we add new vessel traffic to Puget Sound and how to manage the traffic to reduce risk.

The region has not had an oil spill of more than 10,000 gallons in nearly 20 years. Right now, between Washington and BC ports, more than 4,000 deep draft ships arrive through the strait of Juan de Fuca every year.

Political leaders also worry about risks in getting the bulk commodities across the state to the ports used in the study,

Washington members of Congress are prodding the US Transportation Department to quickly adopt mandatory rules for oil tankers hauling the highly flammable Bakken crude to the west coast.

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