News release: Public input needed to safeguard state protections

Photo of Robert Archibald
Robert Archibald is the president of the board of directors for the Prince William Sound Regional Citizens’ Advisory Council and has lived in Homer since 1984. Archibald spent 46 years as a mariner, including service in the U.S. Coast Guard and 32 years as chief engineer on Crowley Marine Service vessels in various locations, 22 of which were in Valdez, before retiring in 2014.

By Robert Archibald 
Board President

Recently published in the Anchorage Daily News

In 1971, the Alaska Legislature formed the Department of Environmental Conservation to take the lead on Alaska’s environmental protections. DEC’s mission, set by the legislation which formed it, is: conserving, improving, and protecting Alaska’s natural resources and environment to enhance the health, safety, economic, and social well-being of Alaskans.

Now, here we are, 30 years after the Exxon Valdez oil spill and the creation of regional citizens advisory councils in Alaska, and coming up on 30 years since the passage of the Oil Pollution Act of 1990. The world-class oil spill prevention and response system in Prince William Sound is a direct result of post-Exxon Valdez spill laws and regulations designed to protect Alaska. These strong statutes and regulations are one of the main reasons why Prince William Sound has not had a major oil spill since.

Currently, DEC is undertaking a “scoping process,” asking for comments from industry and the public on oil spill prevention and response regulations and statutes, which the DEC Commissioner has stated have become “onerous and burdensome” to business. The deadline to comment, March 16, is quickly approaching.

Prince William Sound Regional Citizens’ Advisory Council has concerns that the current review is an effort to roll back regulations in order to reduce the burden on the oil industry, effectively shifting that burden to the citizens and the environment of Alaska.

The Spill Prevention and Response division of DEC is also suffering from reduced funding which will become critical by 2024 without a solution. Currently, this could hamper an efficient and timely review of comments from this scoping. In the future, this shortfall would be disastrous to oil spill prevention and response programs for Alaska.

Contingency plans, required by statutes and regulations, serve as a contract between industry and the State. They are an insurance policy to the citizens that their interests are being protected in both spill prevention and response preparedness. The details in these plans form the backbone of how industry has to provide prevention measures, response equipment and trained personnel, as well as perform drills and other exercises each year. These plans undergo a formal review every five years and are approved by DEC.

Practice does not make perfect, it makes better. That’s it. Being proactive in preventing oil spills and having strong response systems in place ahead of a spill is the best practice to maintain a pristine environment. Without a strong regulatory presence requiring these safeguards, they could disappear, putting our current world-class system at risk.

After 30 years with no major disasters, it would be easy to develop a false sense of security and let complacency creep back in.

One thing I learned during my 46 years as a seagoing marine engineer is that when you least expect it – that is when something beyond your imagination could very well happen.

The problem with letting your guard down is a guy named Murphy. For those that haven’t heard his law, it says: if it can go wrong, it will. Trimming details in the interest of simplicity, losing institutional knowledge as folks retire, rollbacks of regulations, reduced regulatory budgets and staff – all of this is setting up Mr. Murphy to once again prove his point. A point that will inevitably be made at a high cost to Alaskans, their livelihoods, and the amazing waters and lands in which we work, live and play.

Public input is needed to strongly oppose any legislative or regulatory changes that would erode oil spill prevention and response standards, increase the risk of a catastrophic spill or demonstrate a return of the complacency on the part of the oil industry and regulators that Congress determined to be a primary cause of the Exxon Valdez oil spill. I encourage all Alaskans to make public comment in support of strong regulations that protect our pristine environment, coastal attractions, unique wildlife, healthy fish populations and businesses from oil pollution.

Submit your comments:

Public comment form for Oil Discharge Prevention and Contingency Plan Public Scoping


Related content:

How Alaskans redefined oil spill prevention and response

Governor Steve Cowper signs into law a suite of bills developed to enhance Alaska’s oil spill preparedness in the wake of the Exxon Valdez oil spill. Photo courtesy of David Rogers
Alaska, and Prince William Sound in particular, is known for its world-class oil spill prevention and response system. But it ...
Read more.

Council comments on State’s public scoping

Council comments on State's public scoping
Yesterday the Council submitted comments on the Alaska Department of Environmental Conservation's public scoping on the state's oil spill contingency ...
Read more.

News release: Public input needed to safeguard state protections

News release: Public input needed to safeguard state protections
By Robert Archibald Board President Recently published in the Anchorage Daily News In 1971, the Alaska Legislature formed the Department ...
Read more.

Transparency is the foundation of public trust

Donna Schantz
By Donna Schantz Executive Director Public trust in our oil spill prevention and response system took many years to rebuild ...
Read more.

Alaska’s oil spill laws and regulations opened for public review

Alaska’s oil spill laws and regulations opened for public review
The Alaska Department of Environmental Conservation recently began a process to review and potentially change oil spill laws and regulations ...
Read more.

Public statements by Commissioner Brune cause concern

Photo of the Valdez Duck Flats.
The recent public scoping notice issued by the Alaska Department of Environmental Conservation, along with statements made by the department’s ...
Read more.

News release: Board issues position on safeguarding Alaska’s oil spill prevention and response standards

Photo of the 2019-2020 Council Board of Directors
Input from public critical to protect Alaska coastlines and communities The Council voted on October 29, 2019, to pass a ...
Read more.
Loading...

Council’s Board of Directors to meet in Anchorage

The Council will hold a Board meeting in Anchorage on Thursday and Friday, Jan. 23-24, 2020. The meeting will be located in the Imagine Ballroom of the Embassy Suites, at 600 E. Benson Blvd.

The tentative schedule for the Thursday Board meeting session is from 8:30 a.m. to 4:00 p.m. On Friday, the meeting is scheduled from 8:30 a.m. to 11:45 a.m. The meeting is open to the public, except for executive sessions. Public comments are tentatively scheduled to be taken Thursday starting at 8:55 a.m.

January 2020 Meeting Agenda and Documents

The Council will be conducting regular business during the meeting, including updates from council ex-officio members, staff and committees. Other topics on the agenda include:

  • An activity report by Alyeska Pipeline Service Company on Valdez Marine Terminal and Ship Escort/Response Vessel System operations.
  • Comments from Alaska Department of Environmental Conservation, Division of Spill Prevention and Response Director Denise Koch on the current status of the division’s budget for FY2021.
  • An overview by Council staff on recommendations from the Legislative Affairs Committee for a Council position on ensuring the sustainability of the State Oil and Hazardous Substances Release Prevention and Response Fund.
  • An update by Council staff on efforts in response to a public scoping notice issued in October 2019 by the Alaska Department of Environmental Conservation to solicit comments and input on Alaska oil spill regulations (18 AAC 75, Article 4) and Alaska State Statute 46.04, specifically where the discharge prevention and contingency plan requirements can be eliminated or streamlined.
  • A briefing from Council staff on the status of the state review of the sale of BP Pipeline’s assets to Hilcorp/Harvest Alaska, LLC.
  • An update on U.S. Coast Guard Subchapter M Certificate of Inspection Regulation.
  • A report on the results of Port Valdez mussel transcriptomics monitoring in 2019, conducted in order to understand the potential environmental impacts of the Valdez Marine Terminal. The analysis concentrated on mussel genes associated with crude oil pollution as well as other environmental stressors.
  • A report on Prince William Sound forage fish surveys conducted in 2019. These surveys were conducted from an airplane along the entire coastline of Prince William Sound and were focused on identifying juvenile forage fish (e.g., herring, sandlance, capelin).
  • A summary by Council staff of incidents (e.g., oil spills, fires, malfunctions causing shutdowns, navigational closures, tanker/escort incidents) for the terminal or tankers that have occurred in 2019.
  • Introduction and update by the Council’s new state legislative affairs monitor, Kate Troll.

The meeting agenda provided is subject to change before or during the meeting. Council board meetings are routinely recorded and may be disseminated to the public by the Council or by the news media.

Meet the Board of Directors


News release: Prince William Sound RCAC board to meet in Anchorage

Recertification application available for public review

Photo of the Valdez Duck Flats.

The Council is seeking recertification as the alternative voluntary advisory group for Prince William Sound, as authorized under the Oil Pollution Act of 1990 (OPA 90). The application has been submitted to the U.S. Coast Guard, which is charged with assessing whether the Council fosters the general goals and purposes of OPA 90 and is broadly representative of communities and interests as envisioned under OPA 90.

The recertification application is now available for public review:

To obtain a printed copy, contact the the Council at (907) 277-7222, toll-free (800) 478-7221, or email Brooke Taylor.

Comments need to reach the USCG by February 10, 2020, and should reference “PWSRCAC Recertification Docket USCG-2019-0946” in the subject line.

Comments on the application should be sent to LT Ian McPhillips of the USCG:

  • Submit by email: Ian.P.McPhillips@uscg.mil.
  • Submit by mail:Commander, 17th Coast Guard District (dpi)
    PO Box 25517
    Juneau AK 99802
    Attn: LT Ian McPhillips
    Inspections & Investigations
  • Submit online:  Submit comments on the application for Recertification of Prince William Sound Regional Citizens’ Advisory Council

News release:

Recertification application available for public review (0.2 MB)

News release: Board issues position on safeguarding Alaska’s oil spill prevention and response standards

Photo of the 2019-2020 Council Board of Directors

Input from public critical to protect Alaska coastlines and communities

The Council voted on October 29, 2019, to pass a resolution stating strong opposition to any legislative or regulatory changes that erode oil spill prevention and response standards, increase the risk of a catastrophic spill, or demonstrate a return of the complacency on the part of oil the industry and regulators that Congress determined to be a primary cause of the Exxon Valdez oil spill.

The resolution was prompted by a public scoping process recently opened by the Alaska Department of Environmental Conservation. The department is soliciting input from stakeholders, the public, and industry on areas where Alaska oil spill regulations (18 AAC 75, Article 4) and Alaska State Statute 46.04 (AS 46.04), Oil and Hazardous Substance Pollution Control, could be streamlined.

The Council is concerned about the lack of specificity and transparency of the regulatory reform effort. The Council recommends that the State of Alaska halt the current public scoping process until more information is provided to the public as to the driving factors that led to this regulatory and statutory reform initiative. It also strongly recommends that Alaskans interested in maintaining prevention and response standards designed to protect the state’s environment, people and economy from catastrophic oil spills contact the Alaska Department of Environmental Conservation to register their views regarding any weakening of existing safeguards.

“Strong statutes and regulations are a big part of why Alaska has not had a major oil spill since the Exxon Valdez disaster,” said Donna Schantz, executive director for the Council. “The world-class oil spill prevention and response system for the Valdez Marine Terminal and associated oil tankers is a direct result of post-Exxon Valdez spill laws and regulations designed to protect Alaskans and our environment, as well as commercial and sport fishing, aquaculture, recreation, tourism, subsistence and cultural interests. It is unreasonable for the Alaska Department of Environmental Conservation to claim now, after 30 profitable years of industry compliance, that the requirements are too onerous.”

AS 46.04, the basis for oil spill regulations, contains many key laws designed to prevent oil spills and ensure that there are enough trained responders and equipment in place should prevention measures fail. For instance, AS 46.04 includes Alaska’s Oil Spill Response Planning Standard (RPS). The RPS was created after the 1989 Exxon Valdez oil spill by a team of oil industry experts, attorneys, state employees, and spill response specialists as a direct result of the massive failure of the spill response system at that time.

The oil spill response framework – established in AS 46.04 and enhanced over time – is ultimately the product of years of hard work, critical thinking and creative problem-solving by a group of experienced professionals and passionate stakeholders who were impacted in some way by the Exxon Valdez oil spill. The RPS establishes a foundation that continues to distinguish Alaska, and particularly Prince William Sound, as having a world-class prevention, preparedness and response system.

Robert Archibald, board president for the Council stated, “Protecting our communities and the environment is not burdensome, it is the cost of doing business in Alaska. Reducing any perceived burden to industry by rolling back or eliminating proven oil spill prevention and response requirements transfers the risk and burden of another oil spill to the communities, citizens and environment they were designed to protect. This initiative disregards the efforts of hundreds of Alaskans who worked tirelessly on improving regulatory requirements after the Exxon Valdez oil spill to ensure that our state would never again suffer a similar environmental disaster.”

Public input is needed to maintain the proven and effective prevention and response system in place in Alaska. After the public scoping, ADEC will review the input received and put forth any potential changes, followed by a formal public comment period for those proposed change. There is a 30-day minimum requirement for all state public comment periods.

During the current scoping period, the council encourages the public to provide input strongly opposing any legislative or regulatory changes that would erode oil spill prevention and response standards. Also, we encourage the public to insist on more than the required minimum 30-day public comment period for any proposed revisions put forth by ADEC. Adequate time must be provided to analyze proposed changes and gather input from all interested public stakeholders. This is essential to make sure proposed changes do not weaken important oil spill prevention and response measures that many people fought so hard to implement after the Exxon Valdez oil spill. Public input during the scoping process can be submitted through January 15, 2020: Submit comments on Alaska oil spill regulations (18 AAC 75, Article 4) and Alaska State Statute 46.04 (AS 46.04)

Public Input Needed On ADEC’s Oil Spill Contingency Plan Regulation Reform Initiative | November 4, 2019 | File size: 0.2 MB | Author: PWSRCAC

Press and media inquiries, please contact Brooke Taylor: 907.277.7222 or by email.

More information: Public input needed to safeguard state protections

PDF of new release: Prince William Sound RCAC board issues position on safeguarding Alaska’s oil spill prevention and response standards


Related content:

How Alaskans redefined oil spill prevention and response

Governor Steve Cowper signs into law a suite of bills developed to enhance Alaska’s oil spill preparedness in the wake of the Exxon Valdez oil spill. Photo courtesy of David Rogers
Alaska, and Prince William Sound in particular, is known for its world-class oil spill prevention and response system. But it ...
Read more.

Council comments on State’s public scoping

Council comments on State's public scoping
Yesterday the Council submitted comments on the Alaska Department of Environmental Conservation's public scoping on the state's oil spill contingency ...
Read more.

News release: Public input needed to safeguard state protections

News release: Public input needed to safeguard state protections
By Robert Archibald Board President Recently published in the Anchorage Daily News In 1971, the Alaska Legislature formed the Department ...
Read more.

Transparency is the foundation of public trust

Donna Schantz
By Donna Schantz Executive Director Public trust in our oil spill prevention and response system took many years to rebuild ...
Read more.

Alaska’s oil spill laws and regulations opened for public review

Alaska’s oil spill laws and regulations opened for public review
The Alaska Department of Environmental Conservation recently began a process to review and potentially change oil spill laws and regulations ...
Read more.

Public statements by Commissioner Brune cause concern

Photo of the Valdez Duck Flats.
The recent public scoping notice issued by the Alaska Department of Environmental Conservation, along with statements made by the department’s ...
Read more.

News release: Board issues position on safeguarding Alaska’s oil spill prevention and response standards

Photo of the 2019-2020 Council Board of Directors
Input from public critical to protect Alaska coastlines and communities The Council voted on October 29, 2019, to pass a ...
Read more.
Loading...
Skip to content