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Internship leads to new oil spill legislation

June 12, 2013 — Nearly 42 million gallons of crude oil move through the Delaware River and Bay each day, carried by approximately 3,000 deep-draft vessels a year and off-loaded at the nation’s largest receiving port for very large tanker ships.

At this level of traffic, an occasional oil spill is virtually inevitable, even with the best safety practices in place. Large spills such as the Mystras spill (20,000 gallons) in 1997 and the Athos I spill (265,000 gallons) in 2004 have previously soiled Delaware shores.

Now, thanks to the work of a University of Delaware graduate student intern whose position was co-sponsored by the Delaware Environmental Institute (DENIN) and the Delaware Department of Natural Resources and Environmental Control (DNREC), state taxpayers are protected from footing most of the bill for cleaning up catastrophic oil spills that affect the coastline.

With the nearly unanimous passage of House Bill 32, signed into law by Gov. Jack Markell on June 6, Delaware has removed outdated oil spill liability limits that would have left the state holding the bag for most cleanup expenses. The legislation was based on research conducted in the summer of 2011 by public policy intern Tom Battagliese.