Tuesday, December 13, 2005

Chevron and Department of Ecology: What's going on?

The following email has just posted on the Washington Department of Ecology's listserv:

"IMMEDIATE RELEASE - Dec. 13, 2005 05-297 Chevron refuses Washington's request for oil-spill drill OLYMPIA - Chevron Shipping Company, which carries millions of gallons of petroleum products across Washington waters, has become the first-ever oil-shipping company to refuse a request by the Washington Department of Ecology (Ecology) to participate in an oil-spill drill. Chevron and all oil handlers operating in Washington waters have mandatory oil-spill "contingency" plans that spell out how they will respond to oil spills. Ecology approves the plans and tests plan-holders periodically through announced and unannounced spill drills. The state's spill drills test how well oil handlers implement their plans. On Dec. 8, Ecology asked Chevron to deploy resources in an oil-spill drill on the Columbia River. When Chevron refused, a practice scenario in which a Chevron tanker carrying millions of gallons of diesel was to have run aground west of Astoria, Oregon, never played out.  Anytime oil is spilled into the Columbia River, Washington has an interest because oil can move quickly toward Washington waters and shorelines. This spill scenario was selected to test Chevron's ability to respond to an oil spill in the often treacherous waters at the mouth of the Columbia. "Chevron transports millions of gallons of oil over Washington's waters each year and oil-spill drills are critical tools to test readiness to respond to a spill.  An immediate response is absolutely necessary to minimize environmental damage once oil hits the water," said Jay Manning, director of the Department of Ecology. "Chevron's refusal breaks the previously unbroken line of willing participation in spill drills in Washington. I am extremely concerned." Dale Jensen, manager of Ecology's spills program said Ecology has ordered Chevron to update its spill-contingency plan. Also, he said Ecology will test Chevron once again sometime during the next 30 days. Other oil-handlers in Washington that have passed unannounced spill drills in 2005 include:  B-P Cherry Point Refinery in Ferndale,Shore Terminal in Tacoma, Tesoro Terminal in Port Angeles,ConocoPhillips-Yellowstone Pipeline in Spokane and Tesoro terminal in Anacortes. The drills tested the facilities' ability to quickly notify authorities and to deploy containment boom. Jensen said Chevron's spill drill was to test of how well it could coordinate a quick response from its nearest offices in San Ramon,Calif. In addition, the drill was to have tested how well Chevron's representatives would make proper notifications, coordinate a response through spill-response contractors, establish a command post, and test how quickly Chevron could get its own team to the spill site. All holders of Washington oil-spill contingency plans were notified earlier this year that unannounced drills would be occurring. Ecology has used unannounced oil spill drills for five years to ensure that oil handlers protect Washington waters and, until this incident, no oil handler has refused to participate. # # # Contact: Sandy Howard, public information manager, 360-407-6239"