Yesterday, President Barack Obama signed into law the Coast Guard authorization bill (HR 2838), which U.S. Senator Maria Cantwell (D-WA) cosponsored and helped author. The bill included three amendments written by Cantwell that will protect the nation's icebreaking capability, improve tsunami debris cleanup and study the risk of Canadian tar sands supertanker traffic in Washington state waters.
"The Coast Guard Bill is a win for Washington state," said Cantwell. "This bill takes a major step forward in protecting Washington state's coastal economy and the 165,000 jobs that depend on it. This new law reaffirms our commitment to maintaining a presence in the Arctic and protecting Washington state waters from tsunami debris and oil spills."
Cantwell's amendments will:
Prohibit the Coast Guard from acting on plans to decommission the Seattle-based icebreaker Polar Sea unless the Coast Guard conducts a study showing that scrapping the vessel is the most cost-effective option and provides a plan to meet the nation's need for additional icebreakers. Cantwell's language also ensures the nation's remaining icebreakers remain homeported in Seattle until at least 2022;
Require the Coast Guard to conduct a study within 180 days to analyze oil spill risks from additional Canadian tar sands oil supertanker, tanker and barge traffic in the Salish Sea (which includes the Puget Sound, Strait of Juan de Fuca, Strait of Georgia, Haro, and Rosario Straits); and
Create a plan and direct the marine debris interagency task force to coordinate cleanup of tsunami debris, if the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) director finds the level of debris to be a "severe marine debris event." The NOAA Administrator would have to make this designation within 30 days of the bill being signed into law.