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Northwest and Canada Have Proactive Plan in Case of Trans-border Oil Spill

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Being proactive and making rules and responses uniform in the case of a trans-border oil spill is on the agenda of officials in Washington State, Alaska and British Columbia. The Pacific States–British Columbia Oil Spill Task Force has released a report “to document the ‘who’s who’ and what’s what’ when it comes to response planning and readiness for U.S.–Canadian trans-boundary oil spill issues, the Washington Department of Ecology revealed recently.

The report, “Review of Planning and Response Capabilities for a Marine Oil Spill on the U.S.-Canadian Transboundary Areas of the Pacific Coast,” was released on April 29 and looks at the two countries’ existing plans for responding to an oil spill at British Columbia’s borders with Washington and Alaska. The group makes 111 recommendations that agencies at the federal, state, provincial and local levels can implement. The report is also aimed at industry, response organizations, tribes, First Nations and groups based in the U.S. and Canada that coordinate such activities on both sides of the border, according to a Department of Ecology statement.

The report is the result of efforts by 90 natural resource trustees and stakeholders who live and work in Washington, British Columbia and Alaska and who worked with the Pacific States-British Columbia Oil Spill Task Force. Task force work group members included representatives from various government agencies, tribal governments, non-governmental organizations and private industry in Washington, British Columbia and Alaska, said group chairman David Byers, who oversees statewide spill response activities in Washington for the Department of Ecology, in the agency’s statement.

Washington’s economy alone could be walloped to the tune of $10.8 billion from a spill that reached its shores, the ecology department said, in addition to potentially costing 165,000 jobs and harming coastal and tribal communities, disrupting trade, and damaging everything from national parks to shellfish beds and other wildlife habitats.

“Many recommendations highlight how critical it is that all these diverse interests are part of the broader U.S. and Canadian federal oil spill planning and preparedness effort,” said Byers. “The catastrophic spill in the Gulf of Mexico happened while we were working on the report. It bolstered why the involvement of all our response partners is essential if we want to have a successful rapid, aggressive and well coordinated response to a major spill.”

Possible areas of action include response command, planning operations, logistics, financial issues and the distribution of timely information to the media and the public in case of a trans-boundary spill, the statement said.

“We worked for nearly three years to identify as many issues and potential solutions as we could,” Byers said in the ecology department statement. “It is critical that we have these solutions in place before we have a trans-boundary spill.”