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
Cover of report titled "Alaska's Oil Spill Response Planning Standard - History and Legislative Intent
Download: Alaska’s Oil Spill Response Planning Standard – History and Legislative Intent (PDF 5MB)

Council report documents the history and intent behind Alaska’s standard for spill response planning

Alaska, and Prince William Sound in particular, is known for its world-class oil spill prevention and response system. But it wasn’t always that way. In March of 1989, when the Exxon Valdez ran aground and spilled an estimated 11 million gallons of crude oil, responders were ill-prepared.

“Nothing arrived. There was nothing there.”

– Marilyn Heiman
Staff member for the Alaska House Resources Committee,
on the experience of waiting days for equipment to arrive.

Read moreHow Alaskans redefined oil spill prevention and response

Oil spill prevention and response services transition to new contractor

Link to more photos of new equipment
More photos of new equipment.

Prince William Sound was a hive of activity this summer. On July 1, Alyeska’s marine services contractor transitioned from Crowley Maritime Corporation to Edison Chouest Offshore.

This transition means all of the escort tugs and much of the spill prevention and response equipment in Prince William Sound are brand new, or new to the Sound.

Demonstrations of the new equipment

The Alaska Department of Environmental Conservation required that each vessel and crew member demonstrate their capabilities before beginning service. Each tug, as well as each tug’s captain, had to perform a set of maneuvers which differed according to the vessel and its purpose.

Read moreOil spill prevention and response services transition to new contractor

Changes to oil spill contingency plans approved

Extensive amendments due to transition

Photo of oil spill contingency plans with the caption: What is a contingency plan? A contingency plan, or “c-plan,” outlines steps to be taken before, during, and after an emergency. An oil spill contingency plan contains detailed information on how to prevent an oil spill, as well as response activities in the event a spill occurs. Preventing an oil spill from occurring in the first place is the most effective way to protect human health and the environment. If an oil spill occurs, however, a systematic and well-organized approach is necessary to quickly contain and control a spill. Responding efficiently and effectively to a spill requires advanced planning and preparedness.
What is a contingency plan?

The Alaska Department of Environmental Conservation recently approved major amendments to oil spill contingency plans for both the Valdez Marine Terminal and for the tankers that transport oil through Prince William Sound. Both approvals came with conditions.

Neither the tanker plan, nor the terminal plan was due for a renewal. However, Edison Chouest Offshore is bringing so much new equipment and personnel to their new role as Alyeska’s marine services contractor that major changes were needed to both plans. Major amendments require a public comment period.

Read moreChanges to oil spill contingency plans approved

Oil spill contingency plans for Prince William Sound under review

Many changes stemming from transition of marine services contractor to Edison Chouest

Prince William Sound Tanker Oil Spill Contingency Plan

By Linda Swiss
Council Project Manager

Updates to two oil spill prevention and response contingency plans are currently underway. The Alaska Department of Environmental Conservation, or ADEC, solicited public comments regarding the changes to the spill prevention and response plans this past summer.

The plans are prepared by the operators of Alyeska’s marine terminal and oil tankers and are subject to state approval. These plans specify what operators will do to prevent and clean up oil spills. There are separate plans for spills from the Valdez Marine Terminal and from the tankers that carry oil. Both plans undergo an approval process approximately every five years. With the marine services transition in Prince William Sound, Edison Chouest Offshore’s new equipment means the details in the plans will change, triggering a public review.

In 43 pages of formal comments submitted to ADEC in August and September, the Council made a number of recommendations to either maintain the same level of preparedness or improve the proposed plans.

Read moreOil spill contingency plans for Prince William Sound under review

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