The Prince William Sound Regional Citizens’ Advisory Council is an independent non-profit corporation guided by its mission: citizens promoting environmentally safe operation of the Alyeska Pipeline marine terminal in Valdez and the oil tankers that use it.
The council is a voice for the people and groups with the most to lose from another catastrophic crude oil spill in Prince William Sound. The council’s 19 member organizations include representatives from communities, aquaculture, commercial fishing, environmental, Alaska Native, recreation, and tourism groups. They include communities and interest groups in a region stretching from the sound itself to Kodiak Island to lower Cook Inlet—all areas that were touched by oil from the Exxon Valdez oil spill.
The council’s influence depends on quality, accurate research on oil transportation safety and the environmental impacts of the Valdez Marine Terminal and tankers. The council regularly retains experts in various fields to conduct independent research on issues related to oil transportation safety.
A unique approach
The council is unique in having no mission except promoting environmental safety and informing the public about it, while industry and government must manage competing missions:
- Industry must balance the need for environmental protection against the pressure for profits.
- Government agencies can be subject to political pressure to promote economic development and minimize the regulatory burden on industry.
The citizens’ council, by contrast, is relatively free from political and financial pressure. The council’s advisory role and its diverse, community-based board largely insulate it from direct lobbying and other usual forms of political pressure.
The 1989 Exxon Valdez experience demonstrated that the oil industry could learn from people who live and work in the region affected by the terminal and tanker operations. A moral imperative also emerged from the Exxon Valdez spill: those people with the most to lose from oil pollution must have a voice in the decisions that put their livelihoods and communities at risk.
The council’s structure and responsibilities stem from two documents:
Contract with Alyeska Pipeline Service Co.: The first document is a contract with Alyeska Pipeline Service Co., which operates the trans-Alaska pipeline as well as the Valdez terminal. Although this contract guarantees annual funding for the council, it also ensures absolute independence from Alyeska as long as oil flows through the trans-Alaska pipeline.
For more information: Contract with Alyeska Pipeline Service Co.
Oil Pollution Act of 1990 (OPA 90): The second guiding document is the federal Oil Pollution Act of 1990. In the Oil Pollution Act of 1990, Congress mandated citizens’ councils for Prince William Sound and Cook Inlet. The purpose of these councils is to promote partnership and cooperation among local citizens, industry and government, and to build trust and provide citizen oversight of environmental compliance by oil terminals and tankers. Congress identified complacency on the part of the oil industry and government regulators as a root cause of the Exxon Valdez spill.
For more information: Oil Pollution Act of 1990