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NTSB has a vital role in cleanup of Patuxent Oil Spill

[ Return To Senator Roy Dyson's Newsletter ]

Posted on August 26, 2000:

Senator Dyson Ever since a pipeline at the Pepco-owned Chalk Point power plant spilled 111,000 gallons of oil into the Patuxent River, numerous state and federal agencies have monitored this disaster.

Among them is the National Transportation Safety Board which, among many other duties, looks into hazardous oil spills and tries to get to the root of the cause. Surprisingly, few of the constituents who are enraged and discouraged by this spill know exactly how the NTSB in particular and the federal government in general handle oil spills of this extraordinary magnitude.

Recently I wrote the chairman of the NTSB requesting a series of answers to questions I had about the spill. As you may have heard or read, at my request; the Economic and Environmental Affairs Committee on which I sit will be visiting the site of the spill as well as the Chalk Point power plant at the end of August. We will then hold a hearing on the spill on October 3. The EEA Committee is very concerned about this environmental disaster.

I am very upset about this oil spill for a variety of reasons. I feel like I íve come within feet of touching the peak of Mount Everest only to slip back down. During my 25 years of public service I have been committed to protecting our environment, especially the Patuxent River and the Chesapeake Bay. In the 1970s I served on the House Environmental Matters. In Congress throughout the 1980s I consistently fought anti-environmental matters by the Reagan administration. Today, I not only serve as a member of the EEA Committee, but I am the Senate Chair of the Chesapeake Bay Critical Areas Commission. But this oil spill is new territory to me. I wish I had more answers for my constituents, but I donít. Thatís why Iíve called for the site visit and the hearings.

Through the next couple of months as we go on the site visit and hold the hearing, we need to know why a pipeline in the environment it was in was not affected by a hurricane, tornado, earthquake or even a boat or ship running into it.

We also have been led to believe that we have quality people checking these pipelines. Where were these people on April 7, 2000 when the pipeline burst?

I plan to introduce legislation that has the support of some of my EEA colleagues to expand the role of the stateís oversight role in pipeline safety. At our hearing, I plan on finding out what role the federal government plays in the oversight of pipeline safety if they do at all and what role the state can take in this endeavor.

This pipeline disaster has been a dreadful experience. We hope it wonít happen, but we have to anticipate what we will do if it happens again. We canít afford another disaster of this magnitude. Itís up to us to do something constructive to make sure it doesnít happen again so that our Patuxent River can flourish once again.

[ Return To Senator Roy Dyson's Newsletter ]

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