Sen. Dan Sullivan introduces legislation to make major improvements to the Oil Spill Liability Trust Fund

Photo of the Council delegation meeting with Sen. Dan Sullivan.

Legislation includes enhancements supported by Prince William Sound RCAC

Photo of the Council delegation meeting with Sen. Dan Sullivan.
The Council delegation meets with Sen. Dan Sullivan. Left to Right: Joe Lally, Mako Haggerty, Robert Archibald, Amanda Bauer, Sen. Dan Sullivan, Donna Schantz, Rebecca Skinner

Monday, the day after the 30th anniversary of the Exxon Valdez oil spill, Sen. Dan Sullivan introduced in the United States Senate legislation entitled the “Spill Response and Prevention Surety Act.” This bill would reinstitute the financing rate for the Oil Spill Liability Trust Fund, establish a floor and ceiling for the Fund so as to ensure availability of funding resources to help respond to oil spills in all 50 States, provide for prevention funding grants and make other improvements to the Fund.

A delegation of Board members and staff from the Prince William Sound Regional Citizens’ Advisory Council is currently in Washington, DC and provided a preliminary response to Sen. Sullivan on this very encouraging development. The trip is an annual visit for meetings on Capitol Hill, with the U.S. Coast Guard, with federal agencies that comprise the Interagency Coordinating Committee on Oil Pollution Research, the State of Alaska, and the Alyeska Pipeline Service Company.

As a citizens’ organization authorized by statute after the Exxon Valdez oil spill, the Council had previously expressed to Sen. Dan Sullivan, Sen. Lisa Murkowski, Rep. Don Young and other members of the House and Senate strong support for congressional authorization for certain important and needed improvements to the Fund. It was therefore very encouraging for Council representatives to see this bill introduced in the Senate. While visiting Sen. Sullivan at the Capitol yesterday, the Council expressed their appreciation for his work on this bill.

Council representatives are hopeful that the bill will be considered soon in the Senate and House, supported strongly across the nation, acted upon and enacted during this session of the 116th Congress. Council representatives in Washington intend to ensure the full membership of the Council, spanning the entire Exxon Valdez oil spill region, will be briefed on the bill once they return to Alaska later this week. The Council will then be able to provide Congress the organization’s views regarding any potential further recommended improvements to the bill as introduced for consideration.

The financing rate expired at the end of December 2018. It is therefore important that action be taken soon to reauthorize the financing rate and to make the other needed improvements to the Fund for the protection of navigable waters in every state, fish and wildlife and their habitats, local, state and regional economies and for the environment.

The Council delegation meeting with congressional leaders in Washington this week included Amanda Bauer, president, representing the City of Valdez; Rebecca Skinner, Board member, representing the Kodiak Island Borough; Robert Archibald, Board member, representing the City of Homer; Mako Haggerty, Board member representing the Kenai Peninsula Borough; Donna Schantz, executive director; and Joe Lally, director of programs.

For more information, contact Brooke Taylor at 907-277-7222.

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Whittier community engages with on-water oil spill response training

Photo of two of the new Edison Chouest tugs, and an an oil spill response barge who were participating in the training.
Two of the new Edison Chouest tugs and an oil spill support barge participated in the training.

The Council held its fourth annual fishing vessel oil spill response training tour in Whittier, Alaska, on September 25, 2018. The Whittier community was invited to join the council from 11:30 to 1:30 p.m., on a Stan Stephens Cruises vessel to observe the training. Over 60 members of the public participated in the event, including 25 students from Whittier Community School.

Whittier student Abi, 16, stated about the event, “It matters because it keeps our oceans clean and helps keep people knowledgeable about how to respond to the spills. I might want to do it when I get old enough.”

The local fishermen participating in the training are contracted by the Ship Escort/Response Vessel System, also known as SERVS, to respond in the event of a Prince William Sound tanker or Valdez Marine Terminal oil spill. SERVS is Alyeska Pipeline Service Company’s oil spill response organization and coordinates annual oil spill response exercises in multiple Southcentral Alaska communities, including Whittier.

Read moreWhittier community engages with on-water oil spill response training

Council issues position on safe crude oil tanker transit and escort vessel operation in the Sound

The Seward spill response fleet trains for spill response.

The Council voted unanimously on January 18, 2018, to pass a resolution stating that oil tankers and escort vessels should not be permitted to transit through Prince William Sound and into the Gulf of Alaska in weather conditions which have been determined by industry to be unsafe for training.

The resolution was prompted by the upcoming change in marine service contract providers by Alyeska Pipeline Service Company’s Ship Escort/Response Vessel System, including crude oil tanker escort vessel services, effective July 2018. Council executive director Donna Schantz stated, “The oil tanker escort system in Prince William Sound is an essential oil spill prevention measure that is vital to reducing the risk of another catastrophic event, such as the 1989 Exxon Valdez spill.”

“If it is unsafe to train personnel, it is unsafe to transport oil,” said Council Board president Amanda Bauer. “This position does not just apply to the incoming contractor, but sets the standard to which the council feels all future new contractors, equipment and crews should be held. We believe strongly that these standards are needed to ensure the economic and environmental safety of the communities and groups we represent.”

Read moreCouncil issues position on safe crude oil tanker transit and escort vessel operation in the Sound

Report identifies concerns with tanker escort tugs being built for service in Prince William Sound

The council has identified some areas of concern with the design of the new escort and general purpose tugs under construction by Edison Chouest Offshore for use in Prince William Sound. These concerns and recommendations result from a council-commissioned analysis of the tugs by Robert Allan Ltd., a naval architecture and marine engineering company.

Edison Chouest Offshore is taking over the marine services contract for Alyeska Pipeline Service Company in the summer of 2018. Crowley Maritime has held the contract since the creation of Alyeska’s Ship Escort/Response Vessel System after the Exxon Valdez oil spill. The services provided under this contract include escort tugs, general purpose tugs, oil recovery storage barges, and associated personnel, all of which are key oil spill prevention and response assets for the Valdez Marine Terminal and associated oil tankers operating in Prince William Sound. Robert Allan Ltd. was contracted by the council to review and evaluate drawings and other vessel design materials provided by Alyeska Pipeline Service Company. This review includes information that was provided to the council as of December 14, 2016.

Read moreReport identifies concerns with tanker escort tugs being built for service in Prince William Sound

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