Spill in SF Bay Leads to Renewed Calls for Bunker Fuel Ban, Protective Measures
U.S. EPA currently considering rules that could lead to bunker fuel phaseout
SAN FRANCISCO — In response to a bunker fuel spill in San Francisco Bay this morning that has resulted in a mile-long slick, Friends of the Earth renewed its call for a ban on the use of this highly polluting fuel in ships and for other protective measures.
“As Bay Area residents learned in the aftermath of the Cosco Busan spill in 2007, bunker fuel is a filthy sludge that literally comes from the bottom of the barrel when oil is refined,” said Marcie Keever, director of Friends of the Earth’s Clean Vessels program. “We should have learned our lesson in 2007 and moved away from bunker fuel to cleaner fuel. Any further delay is unconscionable.”
Bunker fuel is a waste product of refining oil and is more than 1,000 times dirtier than the diesel used in trucks and buses. Bunker fuel pollutes the air, harms human health, and causes global warming. Unlike cleaner marine distillate, when spilled, bunker fuel’s viscous nature results in little to no evaporation or dissolution and it therefore persists longer in the marine environment than other fuels do, wreaking more extensive harm on wildlife and marine resources.
Thousands of activists have signed Friends of the Earth’s petition demanding that Congress require a complete phaseout of bunker fuel use nationwide. Friends of the Earth is also working in support of the Environmental Protection Agency’s proposed air pollution standards that would likely phase out the use of bunker fuel in ships and reduce harmful pollutants by 80 percent or more by 2030, preventing between 13,000 and 33,000 premature deaths each year.
Friends of the Earth also called today for the enactment of protective measures for San Francisco Bay that are similar to those put in place in Puget Sound in Washington State after numerous bunker fuel spills threatened those waters. Vessels should be required to set out protective booms prior to the transfer of fuel while anchored in order to minimize the spread of spills if they happen and to provide advance notice of this type of fueling in order to allow for a more rapid response in case of a spill.
“Deploying booms nearly four hours after a spill occurs, which reports indicate occurred today, is completely unacceptable,“ Keever said.
Today’s spill occurs almost two years to the day after the disastrous Cosco Busan spill of November 2007. These accidents demonstrate the continued risks that the use of bunker fuel poses to marine life and the health of San Francisco Bay. RESOURCES FOR REPORTERS: