Plan allows more tankers in Sound
Sen. Ted Stevens, the powerful Republican from Alaska, has proposed a bill to expand a Washington state oil refinery and increase the number...
Seattle Times Washington bureau
WASHINGTON — Sen. Ted Stevens, the powerful Republican from Alaska, has proposed a bill to expand a Washington state oil refinery and increase the number of oil tankers moving through the Strait of Juan de Fuca and Puget Sound.
The legislation would overturn the so-called Magnuson Amendment, a law passed in 1977 to reduce the risk of oil spills in Washington waters by limiting the number of oil tankers that could dock in the Puget Sound region.
The amendment's effect has been to limit expansion of the Cherry Point Refinery near Bellingham to only what's needed for Washington state.
Stevens offered the bill Tuesday, the eve of a joint hearing before the Senate Commerce and Energy committees about energy prices and oil-company profits after Hurricane Katrina. Stevens chairs the Commerce Committee.
"Current law has halted in its tracks the expansion of the Cherry Point Refinery that could supply gasoline and other products from Washington to other states on the West Coast," Stevens said in a statement issued late Wednesday. "I have introduced legislation to repeal this outdated and unfair law that results in limited supplies to other regions."
The Puget Sound-area congressional delegation and the state's senators didn't learn of the bill until Wednesday.
Charla Neuman, spokeswoman for Sen. Maria Cantwell, D-Wash., said Stevens apparently offered the bill partly because he's angry at Cantwell's attempts to block oil drilling in Alaska's Arctic National Wildlife Refuge (ANWR) and her campaign to publicize high gas prices and oil-company profits.
Stevens is a strong supporter of the oil industry and of opening ANWR to oil exploration. Cantwell is the Democratic point person in the Senate on energy issues.
"Profits are at an all-time high for oil companies, but now they want to jeopardize the Puget Sound so they can ship more gasoline to foreign markets to make another buck," Cantwell said. "Well, they can't buy this senator, and these attempts won't get by me."
Just last month, the Puget Sound area's congressional delegation successfully fought off an attempt to revoke sections of the Magnuson Amendment during debate over the House energy bill.
The Magnuson Amendment, part of the federal Marine Mammal Protection Act, is named after its author, the late Sen. Warren Magnuson, D-Wash.
Republican Rep. Dave Reichert and Democratic Reps. Norm Dicks and Jay Inslee worked to block the legislation in the House. Reichert bucked his party to persuade GOP leaders to remove the provision before the energy bill passed the House Oct. 7.
Cantwell was the subject of Stevens' wrath at the beginning of the Senate hearing Wednesday in which five oil-company CEOs were asked to explain their corporations' fuel-pricing decisions.
The joint Commerce and Energy committees hearing was arranged by Republican leaders after Cantwell's ongoing campaign against alleged gas-price gouging by oil companies. Stevens testily denied Cantwell's formal request that the CEOs testify under oath.
Stevens said his bill would allow BP America to expand its Cherry Point Refinery to produce gasoline, heating oil and other fuels for other states.
An environmental group is suing Cherry Point in federal court, saying the refinery's docking station violates the Magnuson Amendment.
Cantwell became suspicious that Stevens had planned an attack on the Magnuson Amendment when, midway through Wednesday's contentious Senate hearings, he asked the CEO of BP America, Ross Pillari, if repealing the amendment would increase the Northwest's energy supply.
"Currently, the way the Magnuson Act works," Pillari said, "we will have to reduce our gasoline production by about 10 percent at our Cherry Point Refinery, which would reduce the amount of gasoline that would go to Oregon, Washington and California."
Late Wednesday, Dicks expressed shock at Stevens' proposed legislation. But he said, "We were able to block this in the House last month. Now at least we'll have the legislative process play out."
Alicia Mundy: 202-662-7457 or email@example.com
When vice president of Sub Pop Records Megan Jasper isn't running things at the office, she's working in her garden at her West Seattle home where she and her husband Brian spend time relaxing.