Board Resolution 19-03: Safeguarding Alaska’s Oil Spill Prevention and Response Standards

Photo of the 2019-2020 Council Board of Directors
Cover of report titled "Alaska's Oil Spill Response Planning Standard - History and Legislative Intent
To find out more about the history and legislative intent of Alaska’s strong Response Planning Standards, read the Council’s August 2018 report: Alaska’s Oil Spill Response Planning Standard – History and Legislative Intent (Council report/PDF)

The Prince William Sound Regional Citizens’ Advisory Council passed Resolution 19-03 on October 29, 2019: Safeguarding Alaska’s Oil Spill Prevention and Response Standards

WHEREAS, after the 1989 Exxon Valdez oil spill, Congress found that complacency on the part of industry and regulators played a role in the spill, the public trust was broken, and one way to combat this complacency and rebuild trust was to involve the public, those with the most to lose in the event of a large spill, in decisions that affect the safe transportation of oil;

WHEREAS, Congress enacted the Oil Pollution Act of 1990 that included, among other things, the creation of citizen advisory councils for Cook Inlet and Prince William Sound;

WHEREAS, after the Exxon Valdez oil spill, Alaska citizens and the Alaska Legislature worked together to protect the state from major oil spills by enacting comprehensive laws and regulations (Council report/PDF) dealing with prevention, response, contingency planning, financial responsibility, oversight, monitoring, and other subjects related to the safe handling and transportation of oil and other hazardous substances;

WHEREAS, these laws and regulations were based on real world experiences and the painful lessons of the Exxon Valdez oil spill and were crafted in coordination with State government and oil industry partners, requiring extensive compromise in the determined Response Planning Standards ;

WHEREAS, oil spill prevention and response contingency planning regulations were adopted by the State of Alaska in 1992, and the regulations have been revised on nine occasions to clarify the requirements, streamline the review process, and make the process of drafting contingency plans less onerous and the review of those plans more predictable and expeditious;

WHEREAS, as a result of post-Exxon Valdez oil spill laws and regulations, Alaska has world-class oil spill prevention and response requirements to protect its people and its environment, as well as commercial and sport fishing, aquaculture, recreation, tourism, subsistence, and cultural interests;

WHEREAS, on October 15, 2019, the State of Alaska’s Department of Environmental Conservation Commissioner issued a public scoping notice seeking input on existing regulations and statutes because he has “heard from many Alaskans that contingency plans are unnecessarily burdensome while lacking corresponding environmental benefits,” and that his Department has identified regulations that can be eliminated or significantly reformed;

WHEREAS, despite repeated requests, the Alaska Department of Environmental Conservation has yet to identify the companies, organizations, or Alaskans that have said the existing system is too burdensome, or identify the regulations or statutes they believe can be eliminated or significantly reformed;

WHEREAS, it is unreasonable for the Department of Environmental Conservation to claim now, after 30 profitable years of industry compliance with the laws and regulations, that they are too burdensome, and this claim disregards the hard work of hundreds of Alaskans who worked tirelessly after the Exxon Valdez oil spill to create oil spill prevention and response standards, to ensure that the State of Alaska would never again suffer an environmental disaster like the Exxon Valdez oil spill;

WHEREAS, reducing the burden on 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; and

WHEREAS, Alaska’s Congressional Delegation has steadfastly supported over the past thirty years prudent and sensible actions to help lessen the risks, trauma, and injury to Alaska from another major oil spill.

NOW THEREFORE BE IT RESOLVED, that, in its statutory advisory role, the Prince William Sound Regional Citizens’ Advisory Council strongly advises against 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;

BE IT FURTHER RESOLVED, that the Prince William Sound Regional Citizens’ Advisory Council believes that, if the system created after the 1989 spill is weakened, Alaskans will likely face an increased risk of reliving another major oil spill that could damage Alaska’s commercial, sport and subsistence fishing, sport and subsistence hunting, other businesses, fish, wildlife, environment, and the culture and quality of life of the people;

BE IT FURTHER RESOLVED, that the Prince William Sound Regional Citizens’ Advisory Council advises that the State of Alaska halt this Public Scoping process until detailed information is provided to the public as to the driving factors that led to this regulatory and statutory reform initiative, identifying the Alaskans, including individuals, companies and organizations, who have contacted them with claims that the existing regulations are too burdensome, and by providing information on the statutes and regulations the Department claims can be eliminated or significantly reformed; and

BE IT FURTHER RESOLVED, that the Prince William Sound Regional Citizens’ Advisory Council strongly recommends that Alaskans interested in maintaining safety 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.

PASSED and APPROVED by the Prince William Sound Regional Citizens’ Advisory Council Board of Directors on this 29th day of October, 2019.

Resolution 19-03: Safeguarding Alaska’s Oil Spill Prevention and Response Standards | October 29, 2019 | File size: 0.4 MB | Author: PWSRCAC


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...

Board passes resolution commending Douglas K. Mertz

Resolution 19-02:

Commending and Expressing Gratitude for Douglas K. Mertz’s Dedication
and Service to the Prince William Sound Regional Citizens’ Advisory Council and the State of Alaska

Photo of appreciation gift presented to Doug Mertz and Margo Waring.
Appreciation gift presented to Doug Mertz and Margo Waring by Board President Robert Archibald and Executive Director Donna Schantz on May 3, 2019.

Whereas, Douglas K. Mertz launched his Alaska legal career in 1974 as Law Clerk to Hon. Jay A. Rabinowitz, Chief Justice of the Alaska Supreme Court, quickly advancing to several Assistant Attorney General positions he held in Fairbanks and Juneau from 1975 to 1991, before entering private law practice in 1991;

Whereas, one of Doug Mertz’s primary areas of focus in over 45 years of legal practice in Alaska has been oil transportation and pollution issues;

Whereas, Doug Mertz was the State of Alaska’s primary counsel on spill matters and Trans Alaska Pipeline System (TAPS) regulation from 1977-1990;

Whereas, Doug Mertz represented the State for the Chevron v. Hammond case in the U.S. Court of Appeals, establishing that state oil spill penalties are not preempted by federal law;

Read moreBoard passes resolution commending Douglas K. Mertz

Recognizing the 30th anniversary of the Exxon Valdez oil spill

Resolution 19-01:

Recognizing the 30th anniversary of the Exxon Valdez oil spill, supporting high standards and safeguards for the Valdez Marine Terminal and associated tankers, and continued work to create the best response system possible should prevention measures fail

Floating oil spill boom from Exxon Valdez oil spill
Tangled boom from the 1989 cleanup. Photo by Charles Ehler, courtesy of Alaska Resource Library & Information Services.

Whereas, on March 24, 1989, the Exxon Valdez ran aground on Bligh Reef and spilled an estimated 11 million gallons of crude oil and oiling some 1,300 miles of Alaska coastline;

Whereas, March 24, 2019, marks 30 years since this disaster;

Whereas, Congress determined that complacency on the part of industry and government was a contributing factor in the accident and mandated citizen involvement in the oversight of crude oil terminals and tankers;

Whereas, the Prince William Sound Regional Citizens’ Advisory Council, an independent non-profit corporation whose mission, as mandated by the Oil Pollution Act of 1990, is to promote environmentally safe operation of the Valdez Marine Terminal and associated tankers;

Whereas, the Council represents communities, commercial fishing, aquaculture, Alaska Native, recreation, tourism, and environmental organizations in the region adversely impacted by the 1989 Exxon Valdez oil spill;

Read moreRecognizing the 30th anniversary of the Exxon Valdez oil spill

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

Skip to content