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Report: WA Not Immune to Oil and Gas Disasters

August 2, 2010

SEATTLE - From the April fire that killed seven workers at the Tesoro Corporation's Anacortes refinery to a Puget Sound oil spill six years ago linked to a ConocoPhillips tanker, Washington has seen its share of oil- and gas-related accidents. So has every state in the country, according to a new report from the National Wildlife Federation (NWF) that catalogs fossil fuel incidents over the past 10 years.

Nic Colero, regional outreach coordinator with NWF in Seattle, says Congress vowed after the Exxon Valdez oil spill in Alaska that it would never happen again and passed a law in 1990 to make that point - but the report says the industry's track record has not improved.

"There have been spills, pipeline spills; there have been gas explosions. There have been underground tanker leaks, on-water tanker leaks - a variety of different problems that we're attempting to address here. Something really needs to be done about it."

Colero says the research uncovered a lot more than oil spills and fires, including problems two years ago at gas stations in four counties in Washington.

"The Shell Oil Company agreed to clean up almost 100 underground gas tanks that were leaking into the soil. They're 'out of sight, out of mind' - people don't really think about the underground gas tanks that are causing huge environmental damage."

Legislation passed by the U.S. House on Friday bans new offshore drilling permits for any company that has had major workplace safety or environmental violations in the past seven years. It also removes liability caps on oil and gas companies to ensure that they pay for any damage they cause. Opponents claim it will raise prices and put independent producers out of business.

Colero says NWF sees it as a missed opportunity that the U.S. Senate failed to enact a comprehensive clean energy policy before the August recess. The report also details political contributions from oil and gas companies to presidential and congressional candidates.

"Assault on America: A Decade of Petroleum Company Disaster, Pollution and Profit," is available online at

Chris Thomas, Public News Service - WA