Murkowski Comments on Exxon Tanker Incident in Prince William Sound

Says Senate Should Pass Prince William Sound Escort Vessels Legislation

WASHINGTON, D.C. - U.S. Sen. Lisa Murkowski, R-Alaska, released the following statement today regarding the Exxon tanker that lost power Sunday in Prince William Sound and had to be towed to safety by two tugs:

"The incident yesterday morning, where a fully laden oil tanker exiting Prince William Sound lost power and had to be towed to safety, is a direct reminder that these incidents still happen and we must maintain the Prince William Sound Dual Escort Vessel Marine Safety System. Even with a double hulled tanker, as was the case in this incident, the risk of an accident would have been much greater had the escort tugs not been in the vicinity to assist the vessel. With more than 25 million gallons of oil on board, a vessel grounding in the inclement weather could have been catastrophic.

"The tug escort prevention system works, and even though it is rare for a tanker to lose power, this is not the first time it has happened and it won't be the last. We must maintain the present escort system indefinitely."

Murkowski and U.S. Sen. Mark Begich, D-Alaska, last May introduced legislation that would require all tankers transporting oil in Prince William Sound to be escorted by at least two towing vessels, as has been the practice for the past 20 years.

The current tanker safety system was authorized in the Oil Spill Pollution Act of 1990 (OPA90) and currently applies to single hulled oil tankers only. The last single hulled tanker in the Prince William Fleet is expected to be retired from service by August 2012. The legislation would require dual escort vessels for double hulled tankers as well.

There have been a number of marine incidents and near misses in the 20 years since the Exxon Valdez Oil Spill in 1989. But through the work of the U.S. Coast Guard, the industry, the State of Alaska and the Prince William Sound Regional Citizen Advisory Council to implement the requirements of OPA90, there have been no major oil spills.

U.S. Rep. Don Young, R-Alaska, included the Prince William Sound escort vessels language in the Coast Guard reauthorization bill that has passed the House of Representatives.

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