Congress Raises Penalties for Oil Spills on Waterways

June 30, 2006

The Delaware River and other waterways around the nation will be better protected from oil spills under legislation approved Tuesday by Congress, according to one of the measure’s co-sponsors.

The Coast Guard and Maritime Transportation Act of 2006 establishes higher penalties for damages caused by an oil spill, said Rep. Allyson Schwartz, D-Pa. It also requires anyone with knowledge of possible river obstructions to report that to the Coast Guard and Army Corps of Engineers and increases liability limits for single-hulled vessels as opposed to double-hulled vessels, Schwartz said.

The changes are intended to help prevent environmental disasters such as the November 2004 spill of 265,000 gallons of oil from a Greek tanker into the Delaware River near Philadelphia, which hampered shipping and polluted more than 45 miles of shoreline in Pennsylvania, New Jersey and Delaware.

Authorities later determined that the Athos I, a single-hulled ship, was ripped open by a rusty anchor resting on the river bottom. Critics have said the spill might have been prevented had the vessel been double-hulled. Authorities have not determined where the anchor came from.

The legislation, originally introduced as the Delaware River Protection Act, was also co-sponsored by Reps. Frank LoBiondo and Jim Saxton, both R-N.J., Rob Andrews, D-N.J., and Michael Castle, R-Del. It applies to navigable waterways throughout the country.

The bill first passed the House a year ago but was later absorbed into the larger Coast Guard bill. The $8.7 billion legislation, which supports the Coast Guard’s homeland security and emergency response missions, passed the House on Tuesday 413-0 and now awaits President Bush’s signature.

The maritime bill also contains a provision requiring the Coast Guard to conduct an in-depth risk assessment of any proposals for liquefied natural gas terminals in the Port Richmond section of Philadelphia. Philadelphia Gas Works had floated the idea of such terminals in recent years, prompting concern from neighbors and some city officials.

Was this article valuable?

Here are more articles you may enjoy.