What worked? What didn’t?

Thoughts on the positives and negatives of the way the council was organized.

“I think the positives far outweigh the negatives. The fact that citizens and grassroots organizations in their cities and other interest groups have a very solid, assured voice that guarantees that they will be listened to, and that they can participate in the decisions that affect the traffic in the TAPS system, is very positive.”

– Scott Sterling

“It’s a give and take process, and that’s what it was set up to do. Some people say the RCAC has too much input into industry and some people say we shouldn’t be shipping oil because it’s too dangerous. On the other hand, reason dictates that the world moves by oil, and though we have all kinds of alternative energy, for the foreseeable future we are a world that uses oil.”

– Sen. Frank Murkowski

“I think the organization has done a real good job of protecting the economic interests of the people and the organizations they serve. I think, honestly, as far as what works, we protect the oil industry’s economic interests as well. Because of our counter force to the constant cost cutting, I think we have kept the pressure on to assure good systems are in place, or to actually improve them, and that’s good for industry’s bottom line. But their system, which is set up with bonuses based on cost cutting, doesn’t deal well with that. So we’re kind of like this counter process and counter pressure to actually get appropriate environmental protections and expenses built in and paid for, despite the cost cutting pressures that they have.”

– Joe Banta

“It’s very important for people involved with RCAC and the shippers to go around the different communities to see the beauty of the area that we want to protect. I remember specifically one meeting in Seldovia, there was a new representative for Exxon at that meeting, and I think it had an impact on him, to see the level of commitment on a volunteer basis, folks coming together to provide input that otherwise they wouldn’t have a vehicle available to do that. I think it’s a very positive outcome, the benefit of having stakeholders involved in the process at the ground level rather than the decisions coming out from some regulatory body, and the only option is to file suit.”

– Bill Walker

“The really important thing about the contract was, we had to be funded well enough to be able to hire experts, predominantly scientists, to do studies and make recommendations; we needed money to compete with the experts that the oil industry was coming up with. The contract allowed us to be independent. We gave Alyeska advice. We couldn’t make them do anything, but they had to listen to our advice and they had to respond to our advice. They could comment and give feedback, but they didn’t have a say in the final decision on our advice. When the decisions on what the advice would be were made and votes were taken, the shippers and the oil industry did not have a vote.”

– Marilyn Leland

“The paradigm shift was making citizens have an ability, by having the money, to have staying power. The money goes toward providing informed, technical comments to the agencies that were modifying or marginalizing the regulations and requirements. Before, without active citizen input, we ended up with a spill response plan that gathered dust, a spill barge that was frozen in the ice, less Coast Guard oversight and legislative oversight, and on and on and on. So combating complacency really is the driving force of what we’re about.”

– Joe Banta

“I think the funding is adequate to make sure its scientific and technical arms are competent. The review process and the addressing of the many engineering, technical, and maritime commerce issues that go into it are understood and reviewed by people with the aid of competent contractors and advisors. That enables a person from a fishing group or a municipality or one of the other constituent members to be effective. I think with proper leadership and good faith you can’t expect more from a democracy than people putting their energy into being effective and using their own voices.”

– Scott Sterling

“I think it’s a pretty revolutionary idea that has had positive impacts all over the world. Again, the only downside of trying to translate this to other parts of the world is the idea of granting this kind of group a level of autonomy that allows them to step out and criticize industry and really demand changes. But I know that in other places where they’ve tried to establish these kinds of organizations, where there isn’t a guaranteed source of funding or industry isn’t required to provide a minimum amount each year, it just doesn’t work.”

– Anne Rothe

“On the negative side, because the board is quite large, it’s a bit unwieldy. And as with any large organization, not all the constituents of it are in lockstep on all issues. However, I think it is organized to allow for healthy debate.”

– Scott Sterling

“The one thing that joins everyone is their pride in our mission. Even though the board members may have different political beliefs, they have that one thing that ties them all together; they truly want to see industry work safely.”

– Linda Robinson

“There are no guarantees that can absolutely insure against any kind of mishap or disaster, but the entire process of enhancing safety is greatly benefited by having the local people who know local conditions and who care about the locality where they live take part in the decision making process. By that I don’t mean that they share authority, but their input is solicited and appreciated.”

– Scott Sterling

“I think allowing citizens to have a say, to sit at the table, has been a tremendous benefit. You never know how things would have gone if there hadn’t been an RCAC, but you can look at other parts of the world such as the Gulf [of Mexico] Coast and see how disconnected the people who utilize the water there are from the industry. We don’t have that issue in Alaska anymore.”

– Tim Robertson

Up next:

Lessons learned

About this page:

The quotes on this page are part of an oral history of the Prince William Sound Regional Citizens’ Advisory Council, released in April 2015. For more information about this document, please visit: Stories of the early years and formation of the council released

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