INTERTANKO calls for Federal ruling on Buzzards Bay oil spill prevention Act

On 26 October 2004 the United States Coast Guard (USCG) issued an Advance Notice of Proposed Rulemaking (ANPRM) regarding navigation improvements in Buzzards Bay, Massachusetts.

The Coast Guard is considering two changes to the existing Regulated Navigation Area (RNA) in the First Coast Guard District that covers Buzzards Bay. First the adoption of the current recommended routes through Buzzards Bay for all tank vessels. Second a mandatory tug escort requirement for tank barges transiting Buzzards Bay.

This ANPRM is one of the USCG reactions to the MassachusettsAct Relative to Oil Spill Prevention for Buzzards Bay, which was signed into law by the Massachusetts Governor Romney on 4 August 2004 as a consequence of the pollution in April 2003 when a Bouchard barge struck an underwater ledge. The Massachusetts Act has provisions that are directly under the jurisdiction of the USCG, which the Act unconstitutionally delegates with the same authority to the State Department of Environment.

In the ANPRM, the Coast Guard notes its intention to conduct a federalism analysis of the proposed rule because it "is the view of the Coast Guard that several provisions of the Massachusetts Act touch categories of regulation reserved to the Federal Government and are pre-empted per the rulings in Locke and Ray”.

Finally, the ANPRM notes that Section 17 of the Massachusetts legislation, which establishes a state pilotage requirement for vessels in Buzzards Bay, is “void by operation of law” under a federal statute which prohibits states from requiring state pilots in certain situations.

The Coast Guard has also conducted two public hearings on the ANPRM, one in New Bedford, MA, (November 16) and the other at the Massachusetts Maritime Academy in Buzzards Bay, MA (November 17). INTERTANKO gave testimony (click here to download) at the second public hearing and is planning to submit more detailed written comments by the deadline of 27 December 2004.

Contact: Dragos Rauta