February 27, 2003
Bill to speed up double hull requirement
Rep. Lois Capps (D.-Calif.) has introduced legislation in the House of Representatives to enact stricter oil tanker safety regulations. H.R. 880 --The Stop Oil Spills Act (S.O.S. Act)--would accelerate the replacement of single-hulled oil tankers with double-hulled vessels, create a 100-mile coastal safety zone, and implement financial incentives to double-hulled tanker use.
Capps said the S.O.S. Act will focus on the following:
Eliminating the Riskiest Vessels As Soon As Possible: Current law already requires double hulls on all new tankers, and establishes a phase-out schedule for existing single-hulled vessels. However, the phase out will not be complete until 2010, and some of these vessels may continue to operate on the seas until 2015. The S.O.S. Act would accelerate the phase out for all single-hull tankers to 2007. This timetable was developed with the input of the shipbuilding industry.
Creating Financial Disincentives to Use Single-Hulled Tankers: Capps says there are indications from the Shipbuilders Council of America that current contracts for replacing single-hulled vessels may be inadequate to meet even the current phase-out schedule. To encourage shippers to move to double-hulled vessels, the S.O.S. Act would reinstate an expired user fee on oil that moves through U.S. ports. This five-cent per barrel fee financed the Oil Spill Liability Trust Fund, which was created to ensure prompt and appropriate clean up of oil spills. The fee expired in 1994. The S.O.S. Act would reinstate the five-cent per barrel assessment, but only on oil moved in single-hull vessels. Revenues from the fee would be used to fund an insurance pool against potential environmental risks that arise from the transport of oil. Under past law, the fee did not apply when the balance in the trust fund exceeded $1 billion; the S.O.S. Act would lift that threshold.
Protecting the Environment and Coastal Economies from Future Spills: The S.O.S. Act would restrict single-hull vessel traffic to no closer than 100 miles from shore and require accompaniment by a response vessel when the tanker is within the 100-mile limit. Shifting tankers away from near shore waters and enhancing the predictability of their locations will reduce collisions and the threat to National Marine Sanctuaries, reefs, and smaller commercial or recreational vessels.