Officials in Washington, California and New York have asked the Coast Guard to withdraw rules proposed in December that might dilute states' power to prevent and prepare for oil spills, according to a recent AP story.
The Coast Guard says the proposed rules simply clarify the agency's federal authority over issues such as marine accident reporting, vessel safety inspection and small passenger vessels, the AP reported. But the proposed rules could override any state and local laws that are more stringent than federal standards, such as Washington state's requirement of a tug escort for any tanker entering the Strait of Juan de Fuca and headed for Washington ports, Maia Bellon, the state’s ecology director told the AP.
Do the Coast Guard's proposed rules undermine a state's ability to create legislation to protect its local waters from oil spills? Or do the proposed rules bring a much needed clarity to maritime regulation?
If you can wade through the partisan name-calling and paranoia about Big Oil, you can see both opinions reflected in the response to this article in the comment section of the Seattle Times online.
Capt. JP (retired) wrote that he thinks the proposed rules have "more to do with the Coast Guard regaining the authority that they have ever so slowly lost."
While commenter riser burn views the move as "federal power stomping on states' rights," commenter Night Shadow believes that "maritime law, enforcement of which is up to the USCG, can and should trump both local governmental and global corporate interests."
And commenter ilivehere wrote: "I've worked in the maritime industry for more than 20 years and when it comes to protecting safe navigation of our waterways I trust the Coasties a lot more than any of the clowns in Olympia or in City Hall."
Who do you trust most to regulate maritime issues? Are the proposed Coast Guard rules too broad? Are state-specific laws the way to best protect local waters since the legislators theoretically have more local knowledge and a greater vested interest? Or are state-specific laws a barrier to interstate commerce? Let me know what you think.