Spill-Proofing the Oil Industry

The article ``Exxon Valdez: What Lessons?,'' March 24, reports on the rather negative view environmentalists have of oil tankers. But let's look at the record of a whole series of improvements made on oil-spill prevention and cleanup in the five years since the spill in Prince William Sound in Alaska.

In the United States, Congress passed the Oil Pollution Act of 1990, a comprehensive law that sets out the responsibilities of oil companies and the government to prevent spills and how to proceed when they occur. This measure is costly. Compliance is under way in accord with Coast Guard regulations, but it will take years to accomplish all the requirements.

On the world scene, international organizations have adopted measures to improve crew training, upgrade maintenance, and replace aging tankers.

After studying precisely what needed to be done to deal with major spills, the US petroleum industry formed the Marine Spill Response Corporation, a billion-dollar enterprise. It is operational with five spill response centers on our coasts, new equipment, and trained personnel fully capable of responding to major spills. This capability is recognized by the Coast Guard as sufficient to address ``worst case discharges.''

In Alaska, Alyeska (operator of the trans-Alaskan pipeline and port of Valdez) adopted new accident prevention procedures, including the requirement that loaded tankers leaving the port of Valdez be escorted in Prince William Sound by two vessels equipped with spill response equipment. A Coast Guard study has endorsed this concept, concluding that these escort/response vessels could control a tanker and tow it if a loss of propulsive power occurred. Operations have been reviewed and improved, and there have been no spill incidents in these past five years in Prince William Sound.

As for the US tanker fleet, double-hull tankers are in use and were in use before the Valdez spill, and more have been ordered by shippers. Meanwhile, measures such as upgrading tankers are being taken to meet legal requirements.

So much has been accomplished and commitments have been made for further improvements in spill prevention and cleanup. William F. O'Keefe, Washington American Petroleum Institute

A real women's magazine

I was intrigued by the article ``Wrinkles May Tell But Don't Always Sell,'' April 21, about the folding of Lear's Magazine - especially by the observations about the tone and focus of current women's magazines preying on women's fears and insecurities.

While it is unfortunate that Lear's couldn't sustain its niche, I want other readers to know there is still at least one women's magazine that comprehensively addresses pertinent issues with intelligence and integrity.

MS. magazine offers a bimonthly publication that focuses on real women - wrinkles, fat, and all - with real issues: work, welfare, political reform, health care. Its advertising-free format allows for content-driven, not advertising-driven copy.

It should come as no surprise that MS. originated 21 years ago out of the feminist spirit of upholding all women in our dreams and struggles - and it continues to portray these processes with honesty and courage. Beth A. Coleman, Ellison Bay, Wis.

If it works with CDs ...

In the opinion-page article ``Business and Human Rights,'' April 21, the author maintains that the United States should not suspend China's most-favored-nation status because ``the threat of economic punishment does not work.''

But two pages later, the brief piece on ``Compact disc piracy'' indicates that ``the threat of US trade sanctions'' may have led to Beijing's crackdown on CD pirates operating in China.

American economic pressure worked with South Africa, and apparently counts for something with the People's Republic. If Washington is willing to take China to task for copyright infringement, surely economic pressure is also an appropriate response for torture, extrajudicial killings, suppression of religion, and other violations listed in this year's State Department human rights report. Stanley T. Holmes, Salt Lake City, Utah

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