LoBiondo Joins with Reps. Saxton, Castle, Andrews and Schwartz to Introduce Delaware Oil Spill Legislation
Bill Would Institute Future Oil Spill Prevention Efforts
Rep. Frank A. LoBiondo (NJ-2), Chairman of the Coast Guard and Maritime Transportation Subcommittee, joined Reps. Jim Saxton (NJ-3), Mike Castle (DE-at large), Rob Andrews (NJ-1), and Allyson Schwartz (PA-13) to introduce bi-partisan legislation to help prevent future oil spills on the Delaware River and Bay and the nation's waterways. The measure, called the Delaware River Protection Act (HR1412), was developed in response to the November 2004 accident involving the Athos I, which released 265,000 gallons of oil into the Delaware River and the surrounding areas.
"This bi-partisan legislation will go a long way towards preventing future oil spills not only in the Delaware River and Bay, but across the nation," said Chairman LoBiondo. "Working together, we can ensure that the ecologically significant areas in New Jersey, Delaware, and Pennsylvania are protected from future oil spills, while allowing the vital commerce of the Delaware River to continue."
The Delaware River Protection Act will have several important components that reflect the findings from the recent oil spill hearing in January. The legislation will encourage the use of double hull tankers by increasing the liability limits on single hull tankers under the Oil Pollution Act. It will also require mandatory reporting of objects that are lost overboard to the Coast Guard for immediate recovery. This goal is to prevent future accidents or incidents such as the Athos I spill. Individuals who fail to promptly notify the Coast Guard will be subject to civil and criminal penalties. Additionally, the bill will require an update to the oil spill contingency plan for Delaware River and Bay to ensure the protection of environmentally sensitive habitats and locations, and create a new committee to report to Congress on ways to improve oil spill response and prevention.
"This legislation takes a comprehensive approach in preventing disasters, like future oil spills, on the Delaware River and Bay," said Rep. Castle. "In the coming months and years, our states will continually face proposed industrial and government activities that have potential safety, environmental, and economic consequences. That is why I am so pleased this legislation will create the Delaware River and Bay Advisory Committee, to develop recommendations for Congress on how to address these different situations."
Pennsville Mayor Richard Barnhart, whose community lies along the banks of the Delaware River, was pleased to see these efforts to prevent future oil spills. "Pennsville has enjoyed a long dependency and coexistence with the Delaware River," said Mayor Barnhart. "Our relationship started with the first settlers who used the river for transportation to their church services and continues with the fishing and clamming industry. This waterway is an important part of our lives and many of our residents living along the river enjoy water sports and recreational fishing and crabbing. The legislation Congressman LoBiondo and his cosponsors have introduced will help keep the river a natural resource, and ensure it will be enjoyed by future generations. We greatly appreciate their efforts."
The Delaware River Protection Act also push for increased funding and resources for the Army Corps of Engineers, so it will be able to complete its core mission on the Delaware River, which is keeping marine channels free of navigational obstacles. The measure will recommend the Army Corps of Engineers establish the detection of submerged obstructions in U.S. waterways as a high priority mission. It will also direct the Army Corps to work with other federal agencies such as the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA), as well as the private sector to use state-of-the-art sonar equipment to detect submerged obstacles. Finally, the bill authorize up to $5 million for the Army Corps to remove objects that create hazards to navigation in the Delaware River for the next three years.