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Office of Governor Gary Locke
Contact:  Governor's Communications Office, 360-902-4136

Locke asks White House to keep out of oil spill lawsuit

OLYMPIA - On the eighth anniversary of the massive Exxon Valdez oil spill in Alaska's Prince William Sound, Gov. Gary Locke sent a letter to President Clinton asking for his assistance to ensure the federal government stays out of a legal challenge to Washington's oil spill prevention law.

The state was victorious in a lawsuit brought by INTERTANKO, an association of owners of foreign oil tankers, which had challenged the constitutionality of Washington's law.

The case is expected to be appealed to the Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals. The purpose of Locke's letter is to ensure the U.S. Department of Justice does not become involved in the case on the side of the oil tanker industry.

In 1990, following the 11 million gallon Alaska spill, the Washington Legislature, with only one lawmaker dissenting, passed a law setting a higher standard than federal protections. The state law requires that oil tankers submit plans for cleaning up spills, allows state authorities to board and inspect the vessels, mandates drug and alcohol testing of crews, puts work-hour limits that apply to U.S. vessels on foreign ships and requires that three licensed officers instead of two be on deck when visibility is low.

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