Buzzards Bay’s oil spill protections are safe for now. But our fight isn’t over.

In the fight to keep strong oil spill protections, Buzzards Bay recently won a big battle. The federal government has withdrawn its request to reopen a case challenging a landmark Massachusetts law that requires escort tugs for all vessels carrying oil through Buzzards Bay.

A tug escorts an oil barge through Cape Cod Canal

Escort tugs, like the one shown here, can assist if problems happen when transporting oil through Buzzards Bay.

The Massachusetts Oil Spill Prevention Act (MOSPA) was passed in 2004 in the wake of the Bouchard B-120 oil spill, which devastated Buzzards Bay’s shoreline. The law, which the Coalition helped draft, mandates that all vessels carrying oil through the Bay have a tug escorting them.

Put simply, an escort tug and a local pilot are the most important protections against oil spills in Buzzards Bay. As this incident from last fall makes clear, vessels carrying oil rely on escort tugs when problems happen. Even double hull barges, which are now required for all oil transport in the United States, aren’t enough to keep our water safe from spills.

In 2005, the U.S. Coast Guard sued Massachusetts over MOSPA, claiming that the state doesn’t have the right to pass a law protecting Buzzards Bay. The Coalition intervened in this lawsuit to help the state defend the law. Since then, the Coalition and the state have been fighting to keep MOSPA’s strong protections in place.

After asking the U.S. district court to reopen its case challenging MOSPA last year, the Coast Guard and the oil transport trade association withdrew their request in February.

It’s clear that the protections of MOSPA are working to protect Buzzards Bay; since Massachusetts passed the law, there have been no major oil spills in the Bay. The Coalition will continue to fight to maintain the strongest possible protections against spills.

Category: On the Bay

Current Issues

Oil Spills

New laws and better plans have made the Bay safer from oil today than it was 10 years ago. But oil spills remain a constant threat. That’s why the Coalition continues to advocate for the strongest possible protections for Buzzards Bay.

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Working to Save Buzzards Bay

The Buzzards Bay Coalition is a membership-supported organization dedicated to improving the health of the Buzzards Bay ecosystem for all through education, conservation, research, and advocacy.

We work to protect clean water on the Bay and on the land: