Alaska Senator Wants More Tankers Delivering Crude to the Puget Sound

Senator Ted Stevens of 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.

Stevens presented the bill Tuesday, which was the evening of a joint hearing before the Senate Commerce and Energy committees about energy prices and oil-company profits after Hurricane Katrina. Stevens currently 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 "I have introduced legislation to repeal this outdated and unfair law, which results in limited supplies to other regions."

Senator Maria Cantwell of Washington believes that turning Puget Sound into a superhighway for tankers would be a mortal mistake. She and other critics fear the risk of a major oil spill. A similar proposal offered last month by Representative Greg Walden of Oregon was withdrawn in the face of strong opposition.