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Delaware River Protection Act of 2005

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Date:
Location: Washington, DC


DELAWARE RIVER PROTECTION ACT OF 2005 -- (House of Representatives - June 27, 2005)

Mr. LoBIONDO. Mr. Speaker, I move to suspend the rules and pass the bill (H.R. 1412) to amend the Ports and Waterways Safety Act to require notification of the Coast Guard regarding obstructions to navigation, and for other purposes, as amended.

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Mr. LoBIONDO. Mr. Speaker, I ask unanimous consent that all Members may have 5 legislative days within which to revise and extend their remarks on H.R. 1412.

The SPEAKER pro tempore. Is there objection to the request of the gentleman from New Jersey?

There was no objection.

Mr. LoBIONDO. Mr. Speaker, I yield myself such time as I may consume.

Mr. Speaker, H.R. 1412, the Delaware River Protection Act, makes several amendments to current law to enhance the Coast Guard's and the Federal Government's capability to prevent and respond to future oil spills in U.S. waters.

On November 26 of 2004, the ATHOS I struck a submerged object and released more than 260,000 gallons of heavy crude oil into the Delaware River. I commend the excellent work of the Coast Guard, in cooperation with other Federal and State agencies, to minimize the impact of the spill. However, this incident has brought several issues to light that are needed to enhance our capabilities to prevent and to respond to future oil spills.

Mr. Speaker, H.R. 1412 would require persons to notify the Coast Guard in the event that an object is released into U.S. waters that could cause the obstruction to navigation or, in the case of the ATHOS I, rip open the bottom of a ship. Mr. Speaker, let me give an example of why this provision is necessary. Under current regulations, an individual must report the creation of an obstruction only when the obstruction is caused by a sunken vessel. In other words, you must notify the Coast Guard when a vessel, whether a dinghy or a cruise ship, is sunk in a navigable waterway, but you need not report the loss of a large object such as a 7-foot anchor which, in this case, ripped the hull of the ATHOS I.

The notification requirement included in this bill will provide the Coast Guard with the information necessary to mark the location of potential obstructions on nautical charts until those obstructions can be removed. This provision will improve maritime safety and will protect the environment and economies of our local communities by further preventing similar mishaps in the future.

H.R. 1412 also directs the President to adjust liability limits for vessel owners to reflect changes in the Consumer Price Index since 1990 and establishes a research program to develop and test technologies to detect and remove submerged oil from our waterways.

This bill will provide the Federal Government with authorities that will enhance our capabilities to prevent and respond to future oil spills in U.S. waters. I would like to thank my colleagues, the gentleman from New Jersey (Mr. Saxton), the gentleman from New Jersey (Mr. Andrews), the gentleman from Delaware (Mr. Castle), and the gentlewoman from Pennsylvania (Ms. Schwartz), for their help, participation, and cosponsoring this bill.

I urge the House to support H.R. 1412.

Mr. Speaker, I reserve the balance of my time.

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