Tag Archives: Department of Homeland Security

State will provide cleanup resources to the Gulf

When Homeland Security Secretary Janet Napolitano declared the oil spill in the Gulf of Mexico a matter of national significance, she essentially put on alert all emergency management systems across the country.

Washington Department of Ecology, which is responsible for responding to oil spills in this state, has identified resources the agency could send while maintaining an adequate local response capability, said Ecology’s Curt Hart in a memo he issued Monday to news reporters and editors.

Spill response companies in Washington and across the country are identifying people and resources that could be sent to the Gulf, he said.

Hart is communications manager for Ecology’s Spill Prevention, Preparedness, and Response Program. Here’s a portion of his memo:

Ecology expects to continue to receive requests for people and equipment from the spill response community to assist in the response. Our department is working to make sure we have a sound plan in place to process these requests. It is important that we are well coordinated in this effort and that no required response resources are moved out of Washington state without explicit approval.

Some, like the Marine Spill Response Corp., have already sent 26 experienced responders, 15,000 gallons of chemical dispersants used to minimize oil shoreline impacts, 1,400 feet of special fireproof boom to burn oil in place on the water.

On Friday, April 30, the Department of Homeland Security asked state agencies in Washington, including Ecology, what resources they could send to aid our Gulf coast communities if and when it becomes necessary.

This type of issue is not new to Ecology. We have had mutual aid plans in place with the other west coast states and the Province of British Columbia since 1993. It is our general policy to provide the appropriate resources necessary to support our partners in the United States and Canada in order to protect our national environmental and economic interest. We may also need their help in return someday.

Ecology and other state agencies are participating in the state Department of Military Emergency Management Division’s “Emergency Management Assistance Compact (EMAC)” activation. EMAC is a national interstate mutual aid agreement that enables states to share resources during times of disaster. We have identified the types and number of resources that we could send while still maintaining our local response capability.

Ecology has set up a website for those who want to follow Washington state’s response to the Gulf oil spill.

In addition to private responders, Ecology has indicated that it could send 11 specialists in oil spills and natural resources and 27 shoreline cleanup technicians, according to an Associated Press story by George Tibbits.

It is likely that the cleanup will go on for months. In previous oil-spill cleanups, workers who come later to relieve the first responders are invaluable — and that may be when the most workers from the West Coast are called in.

New port security card gets off to a good start — so far

The Coast Guard reported today that things went smoothly during the first day of enforcement using the new “smart” ID card called the Transportation Worker Identification Credential or TWIC.

“Most of our ports here in the Pacific Northwest got off to a great start today,” Coast Guard Capt. Suzanne Englebert said in a news release.

“Of the 270 port employees randomly inspected by the Coast Guard today, 99 percent had their cards, and the sole remaining person was enrolled in the system but simply hadn’t received their card yet,” said Englebert, who is captain of the port for the Seattle district.

Communication among federal and state officials, the maritime industry and labor unions was the key, Englebert said.

It is yet to be seen whether things will go as smoothly for everyone else. The Seattle Department of Transportation is saying drivers may run into traffic backups Monday and Tuesday at several waterfront terminals, including Terminal 5 in West Seattle, Terminal 18 on Harbor Island Terminal 46 off Alaskan Way.

“While the TWIC card requirement has been widely publicized, it is difficult to estimate how many drivers might arrive on Monday without the card,” states a press release from Seattle DOT.

Although the card adds a complication to the movement of goods in and out of ports, it is considered part of the increased security system to guard against terrorism at ports of entry.

This week, Homeland Security Secretary Janet Napolitano revealed that her agency would not meet its 2012 deadline for screening all cargo coming into the country. See the Associated Press story about her appearance before a House committee and her prepared remarks.

Back to the TWIC security cards, more than 700,000 workers have enrolled in the program at 15 of the nation’s ports, according to a fact sheet from the Transportation Security Administration. Enrollment is offered at 150 fixed enrollment centers and over 370 mobile sites nationwide.

It is estimated that eventually more than 1.5 million people will obtain the card. The card is required for workers who need unescorted access into secure area of ports. They include port employees, longshoremen, mariners and truckers.

One of the more interesting questions to come up was whether a group of people who dress up 19th century garb and use mules to pull a ferryboat along a canal in Easton, Pa., would need the new card to carry on with the historical re-enactment The answer was yes. See story in The Morning Call of Allentown, Pa.