Report Raises Safety Concerns About Oil By Water

Aug 7, 2014

Many communities across the Northwest are worried about the safety risks of shipping crude oil by rail. But a new report raises safety concerns about another shipping method: Oil by water. For EarthFix, Cassandra Profita reports.

An oil barge. A new report by the non-partisan Congressional Research Service concludes that a shift in transport of oil to barges and ships raises many safety concerns.
Credit Kill van Kull / Flickr

The Congressional Research Service report finds more and more crude oil is being transported in barges and ships. But safety standards for barges are outdated.

Congress asked the U.S. Coast Guard to update them a decade ago, but it hasn't happened yet.

The report says the Coast Guard has delayed other actions that could prevent oil spills. They include mandatory 8-hour breaks for barge workers to avoid fatigue.

Lieutenant Commander Ben Russell is with the Coast Guard Sector Columbia River. He says his marine safety team does a lot to prevent oil spills – including annual barge inspections.

Russell: "The last thing we want, of course, is thousands of gallons of oil in the river, so we do everything we can to prevent that from happening."

At least two facilities in the Northwest ship crude oil by water: An oil terminal on the Columbia River in Oregon and a refinery in Anacortes, Washington.

Copyright 2014 EarthFix