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Bills would require oil, cargo, cruise industry to pay for year-round response tug

Legislation introduced today in the Washington state Senate and House would require the oil, cargo and cruise industry to pay for a year-round response tug to stand by at Neah Bay to prevent vessel oil spills.

Senate Bill 5344 and House Bill 1409 would require all oil tankers, cargo vessels and large cruise ships to form a cooperative to contract for standby response tug service at the mouth of the Strait of Juan de Fuca.

“These bills are fair because they are based on the principle that those who create the risk to our ecosystem should be responsible for paying for preventing damage,” People For Puget Sound policy director Bruce Wishart said in a press release. “The burden of paying for the tug should be taken off the shoulders of the taxpayers and assumed by industry.”

A rescue tug has been stationed at Neah Bay since 1999 on a part-time seasonal basis and paid for by state and federal funds. Since July 2008, the Legislature has funded a full-time rescue tug to stand by at Neah Bay. That funding ends on June 30, 2009.

Since 1999, the rescue tug has been responsible for 40 rescues or assists of oil tankers, cargo vessels, and other vessels in the region.

SB 5344 is sponsored by Sen. Kevin Ranker, D-San Juan Island, and cosponsored by senators Swecker, Rockefeller, Marr, Hargrove, Pridemore, and Fraser.

HB 1409 is sponsored by Rep. Kevin Van De Wege and cosponsored by representatives Kessler, Upthegrove, Rolfes, Blake, Dunshee, Campbell, Jacks, Orwall, Seaquist, Appleton, Nelson, Roberts, Morris, Takko, Cody, Carlyle, McCoy, Goodman, Quall, Sullivan, and Liias.

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