[Federal Register Volume 63, Number 17 (Tuesday, January 27, 1998)]
[Proposed Rules]
[Pages 3861-3862]
From the Federal Register Online via the Government Publishing Office [www.gpo.gov]
[FR Doc No: 98-1887]



Coast Guard

33 CFR Parts 154 and 155


Review of Cap Increases; Response Plans for Marine 
Transportation-related (MTR) Facilities and Tank Vessels

AGENCY: Coast Guard, DOT.

ACTION: Request for comments.


SUMMARY: Current Coast Guard response plan regulations for MTR 
facilities and tank vessels contain requirements for on-water oil 
removal capacity (referred to as caps) that plan-holders transporting 
or transferring groups I through IV petroleum oil are required to meet 
in planning for a worst case discharge. The original caps were set in 
1993 and were scheduled to increase by 25% on February 18, 1998, 
provided the Coast Guard completed a review of the cap increases and 
determined the cap increases were practicable. The Coast Guard's review 
of the cap increases is on-going. Therefore, the Coast Guard will not 
implement the cap increases as originally scheduled, and the 1993 caps 
will remain in effect pending the results of the review. The Coast 
Guard requests comments on the practicability of the cap increases.

DATES: Comments must be received on or before April 27, 1998.

ADDRESSES: You may mail comments to the Docket Management Facility, 
[USCG-98-3350], U.S. Department of Transportation, Room PL-401, 400 
Seventh Street, SW., Washington, DC 20590-0001, or deliver them to room 
PL-401, located on the Plaza Level of the Nassif Building at the same 
address between 10 a.m. and 5 p.m., Monday through Friday, except 
Federal holidays. The telephone number is 202-366-9329.

    The Docket Management Facility maintains the public docket for this 
request for information. Comments, and documents as indicated in this 
preamble, will become part of this docket and will be available for 
inspection or copying at room PL-401, located on the Plaza Level of the 
Nassif Building at the above address between 10 a.m. and 5 p.m., Monday 
through Friday, except Federal holidays. You may also access the public 
docket on the internet at http://dms.dot.gov.

LCDR John Caplis, Project Manager, Office of Response (G-MOR), at 202-
267-6922; e-mail:

[[Page 3862]]

[email protected]. Note: Comments to the docket may only be 
accepted by mail to the address under ADDRESSES. This telephone is 
equipped to record messages on a 24-hour basis.


Regulatory History

    The regulatory history for these regulations are recounted in the 
preambles of the final rules entitled ``Vessel Response Plans'' (61 FR 
1052, January 12, 1996) and ``Response Plans for Marine Transportation-
Related Facilities'' (61 FR 7890, February 29, 1996).

Background and Purpose

    One important goal of the Oil Pollution Act of 1990 (OPA 90) is to 
increase the overall oil spill response capability in the United 
States. To achieve this goal, minimum on-water oil removal capacities 
were developed through two rulemakings and public meetings, including 
Negotiated Rulemaking Committee meetings. As a result, 33 CFR 
154.1045(m) and 33 CFR 155.1050(o) set out caps which an owner or 
operator must ensure available, through contract or other approved 
means, in planning for a worst case discharge. These caps were 
established taking into account 1993 technology and availability of 
response resources.
    In 1993, the Coast Guard set the caps at the present levels based 
on the following reasons. First, in many geographic areas of the U.S., 
on-water recovery capability and containment and protection resources 
simply did not exist for responding to a large spill--especially from a 
very large or ultra large crude carrier. Second, the Coast Guard 
believed Congress intended to encourage the development and enlargement 
of the response community, but not to cause significant, adverse 
economic impacts. To support this, the Coast Guard set a nationwide 
criteria as opposed to geographic-specific criteria as an incentive to 
improve the overall response capability in the United States. Third, 
the caps acknowledged a reasonable and practical limit to the amount of 
1993 technology resources that could be constructively used during the 
first stages of a spill response. Lastly, the Coast Guard intended that 
the caps would ensure a baseline recovery capability, and would not 
limit the resources brought to bear during an actual oil discharge. 
Owners or operators were and still are expected to activate the 
response resources necessary for the particular circumstances of any 
spill, regardless of what has been contracted for the advance.
    The 1998 cap, a 25% increase from the 1993 levels, was proposed as 
a planning target for increasing response capabilities. This increase 
was discussed by the Vessel Response Plan Negotiated Rulemaking 
Committee as an incentive to expand response capabilities within the 
United States to an obtainable and desirable level by 1998. The Coast 
Guard concurred with the recommendation from the Committee to evaluate 
the proposed cap increase before the increase would be implemented to 
determine if it remains practicable.
    The Coast Guard believes that in certain geographic areas existing 
response capabilities already exceed the 1998 proposed cap. Several 
states have enacted state requirements that meet or exceed the 1998 
caps. However, the Coast Guard understands that in other regions plan-
holders may have great difficulty in meeting the 1998 increase. 
Additionally, the Coast Guard believes, since 1993, significant 
advances have occurred in the use and availability of high rate 
response techniques and technology within the United States. The Coast 
Guard intends to take into account these factors when reassessing the 
1998 cap.

Reason for Equipment Caps Review

    In accordance with the regulations 33 CFR 154.1045(n) and 33 CFR 
155.1050(p), the Coast Guard is required to conduct a review of the 25% 
cap increase. During the review, which is ongoing, the Coast Guard will 
determine if the increase is practicable; if not, the Coast Guard will 
propose an alternative cap which may be higher or lower. The review is 
to include, but not be limited to, the following topics:
    a. Increases in skimming efficiencies and improvements in design 
    b. Advances in oil tracking technology;
    c. Improvements in high rate response techniques;
    d. Other applicable technologies;
    e. Increases in the availability of private response resources.
    The regulations also state that the scheduled cap increase would 
occur on February 18, 1998, unless the review is not completed by the 
Coast Guard. The Coast Guard can not complete the review by February 
18, 1998, and will not implement the cap increase as scheduled. Any 
changes or additional requirements will occur through the public notice 
and comment process and will not become effective until 90 days after 
publication of a Federal Register notice reporting the results of the 

Request for Comments

    The Coast Guard encourages interested persons to submit specific 
comments with regard to the requirements of 33 CFR 154.1045(m) and 33 
CFR 155.1050(o). The Coast Guard is seeking comments to determine if 
the proposed increase to the cap remains practicable. Responses to the 
following questions regarding the proposed cap increase will be helpful 
in determining the practicality of these requirements:
    (1) Is a 25% cap increase practicable? Nationally? Regionally?
    (2) Have there been advances or improvements in the efficiency of 
mechanical recovery designs that should be considered in determining a 
new cap?
    (3) Have there been improvements in oil tracking technologies that 
should be considered in determining a new cap?
    (4) Have there been improvements in high rate response technologies 
such as dispersants, in situ burning, etc., that should be considered 
in determining a new cap?
    (5) Have there been large increases in the availability of private 
resources within specific regions of the country?
    Persons submitting comments should include their name and address, 
identify this request for information (USCG 98-XXX), and give the 
reason for each comment. Please submit two copies of all comments and 
attachments in an unbound format, no larger than 8\1/2\ by 11 inches, 
suitable for copying and electronic filing, to the DOT Docket 
Management Facility at the address under ADDRESSES. If you want 
acknowledgment of receipt of your comments, enclose a stamped, self-
addressed postcard or envelope. The Coast Guard will consider all 
comments received during the comment period, and may propose a new cap 
based on the comments.

    Dated: January 21, 1998.
Joseph J. Angelo,
Acting Assistant Commandant for Marine Safety and Environmental 
[FR Doc. 98-1887 Filed 1-26-98; 8:45 am]