Salish Sea Citizens Stand on Capitol Hill in Olympia

— from Katie Fleming —

On Monday, February 13, 200 people from the San Juan Islands and greater Salish Sea region attended a rally at the Washington State Capitol in Olympia to show support for the Oil Transportation Safety Bills (House Bill 1611/Senate Bill 5462).

A major oil spill would significantly impact Washington State’s maritime economy, which is worth $30 billion and supports 148,000 jobs. A spill would also be devastating to first responders, property values, outdoor tourism, export (due to closed shipping lanes), and the environment.

Right now, state oil spill responders have a shrinking budget, but they are dealing with a growing problem. Each year 12,400 large vessels, including over 1,322 oil tankers, transit through the Salish Sea. Proposals would increase international shipping by 37%, which would turn the region into a tanker highway.

Of all these projects, the expansion of the Kinder Morgan Pipeline would result in the greatest oil spill risk: a 9-fold (800%) increase of a 20,000 barrel or larger spill over the next ten years in Haro Strait and Boundary Pass in San Juan County. Yet the state Department of Ecology oil spill response program faces a $4 million shortfall over the next two years. The Oil Spill Transportation Safety Bills aim to fill the funding gap with a tax increase on oil shipments and an expansion of the tax to include oil transported through pipelines.

“The whole state depends on oil spill free waters. Oil transportation safety protects public health, our economy and our Orca,” said Stephanie Buffum, Executive Director at Friends of the San Juans.

Rally attendees carried 86 life-size posters of orca fins — one for each living member of J, K and L pods, including Lolita in captivity and the 7 lost in 2016. An oil spill is one of the biggest threats to the endangered Southern Resident orcas.

Rally participants also met with their legislators to ask them to enact the toughest regulations possible to protect our Salish Sea and support the Oil Transportation Safety Bills.

“Citizens can still get involved. If you care about protecting orca and oil spill prevention join our efforts and call your legislators this week and ask them to support for the Oil Transportation Safety Bills (HB1611 & SB 5462),” said Buffum.

Rally speakers included Stephanie Buffum, Executive Director of Friends of the San Juans; Washington State Senators Kevin Ranker and Reuven Carlyle, Representatives Kristine Lytton, Beth Doglio, Joe Fitzgibbon; Jay Manning, President of the Washington Environmental Council and past Director of Washington Department of Ecology; Chris Wilke, Executive Director of Puget Sound Keeper; and musical performance by Sharon Abreu and Michael Hurwicz of Irthlingz.

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