Council questions proposed changes to ADEC response exercise program

By Susan Sommer Drills and exercises are a vital part of making sure that companies transporting oil through Prince William Sound are meeting state laws and are capable of performing an effective spill response. In early February, the Alaska Department of Environmental Conservation’s Division of Spill Prevention and Response, known as SPAR, published a draft white paper titled “Response Exercise Program Improvements.” Although the document pertains to the entire state, the council contends that some of the proposed changes might inadvertently reduce vigilance and preparation among plan holders and responders in Prince William Sound. The council, in collaboration with the Cook Inlet Regional Citizens Advisory Council, provided feedback during the public review stage and encouraged the agency to consider the process used in Prince William Sound as a model for the rest of the state. It also noted that some aspects of the draft document need further study to determine long-range implications. … Continue reading

Council and partners plan test of spill surrogate for response training

By Jeremy Robida Council Project Manager A group of oil spill preparedness planners in Prince William Sound are working together to develop an improved method of training for oil spills. The council has been working for many years to find a suitable oil “surrogate” for spill response training. Surrogates are floating substances such as wood chips, peat moss, or other materials that would mimic an oil slick and have similar interactions with currents, tides, and winds, without harming the environment. A surrogate would provide a target for responders during training and exercises; something which physically interacts with boom and equipment and acts as a visual aid to help responders increase proficiency with gear and tactics. Federal policies do not provide guidance for surrogates. Instead, local solutions are encouraged which can be tailored to fit each region’s particular environmental concerns. … Continue reading

Opportunity for public comment: Changes proposed to process for public input on oil spills

The Alaska Regional Response Team, made up of state and federal agencies, recently proposed changes to the Alaska Federal/State Preparedness Plan for Response to Oil & Hazardous Substance Discharges/Releases, also known as the “Unified Plan,” which guides oil spill cleanup in Alaska. These changes would replace the Regional Stakeholder Committee, or RSC, the forum that has been used since the Exxon Valdez oil spill to communicate with those stakeholders affected by an incident such as an oil spill. … Continue reading

Oil spill drills teach lesson in prevention

By ROY ROBERTSON Drill Monitor Two large oil spill drills were conducted in Prince William Sound this past September and October. Both exercises proved challenging for the organizations participating in them. SeaRiver Maritime held a three-day exercise in the middle of September. For this annual drill, the role of the “spiller” alternates among the shipping companies that move oil through Prince William Sound. … Continue reading