From the Executive Director: Citizens and partnerships in the safe transportation of oil

Donna Schantz is the executive director of the Prince William Sound Regional Citizens’ Advisory Council. March 24, 2017, marked the 28th anniversary of the Exxon Valdez oil spill. Each anniversary is a time for reflection on how far we have come, as well as how much there is left to do. It is also a time to recognize the efforts of those who used the lessons of the Exxon Valdez to advocate for safeguards to ensure nothing like it ever happens again. Thanks to the foresight, vigilance, and tireless efforts of elected officials, government regulators, industry, and citizens, the oil spill prevention and response system now in place in Prince William Sound is an example to the rest of the world. A big part of the success in Prince William Sound is that all these partners work together. We all share one goal: to promote the safe transportation of oil. While every partner has played a vital role in the success in Prince William Sound, special recognition is warranted to honor past and current technical committee and board members of the Prince William Sound Regional Citizens’ Advisory Council. Our volunteers have put in countless unpaid hours dedicated to the mission of our organization. Congress found that complacency on the part of industry and government personnel responsible for monitoring the operation of the Valdez Marine Terminal and associated oil tanker traffic in Prince William Sound was a major contributing factor to the Exxon Valdez oil spill. To combat this complacency, Congress established two regional citizens’ advisory councils, ours in Prince William Sound and another in Cook Inlet, to involve citizens in an environmental oversight and monitoring. Neither council could satisfy the provisions under this federal mandate without dedicated volunteers from throughout their respective regions. … Continue reading

From the Executive Director: Recertification is time for reflection and self-evaluation

In December, the council submitted its application to the U.S. Coast Guard for recertification under the Oil Pollution Act of 1990, referred to as “OPA90.” The Act requires the council to reapply yearly for the Coast Guard’s approval as the official citizens’ advisory group to the oil industry in Prince William Sound. Guidelines established in 2002 streamlined the recertification process for two out of three years, with every third year requiring stricter procedures. That process—known as comprehensive recertification—was used this year. The application and supporting documents describe how the council has met its responsibilities under OPA90 over the past few years. We are evaluated on whether we include a broad representation of interests in our membership, maintain open communication with industry and government on a variety of issues, coordinate on scientific work, develop and carry out effective monitoring programs, work to prevent and plan for oil spills, and more. … Continue reading

From the President and Executive Director: Partnerships build trust and help prevent oil spills

By Amanda Bauer, President of the Council’s Board of Directors and Donna Schantz, Executive Director. In 1990, just after the worst oil spill the U.S. had ever seen, Congress was tasked with creating legislation that would prevent such a disaster from happening again. One goal of the resulting legislation, the Oil Pollution Act of 1990, was to foster long-term partnership and build trust between industry, government, and local communities. To help accomplish this, the Act mandated regional citizens’ advisory councils to help monitor the oil industry in Prince William Sound and Cook Inlet. Great visionaries began this experiment in building partnership and trust. While some of these people are no longer with us, we still share the vision that motivated them. Today, the council still works to find common ground between citizens, the oil industry, and regulators in order to develop the trust necessary to build and maintain the safest marine transportation system in the world. … Continue reading

From the Executive Director: Proposed amendment to Alaska’s Response Plan would reduce citizen involvement in spills like Exxon Valdez

The federal and state group that plans oil-spill response and cleanup in Alaska waters has proposed changes that would dismantle a vital tool for public involvement in that process. The group in question is the Alaska Regional Response Team. This group is made up of 15 different federal and state agencies, and is chaired by the U.S. Coast Guard and the Environmental Protection Agency. The Department of Environmental Conservation is the primary representative for the State of Alaska. Changing it as proposed would weaken, not strengthen, oil-spill response in Alaska waters. It’s a bad idea and we urge the Response Team to withdraw the proposal and rework it as needed with help from this citizens organization and other concerned stakeholders. The tool the Response Team wants to dismantle is the Regional Stakeholder Committee. It includes our group and many others with much to lose if Alaskans should suffer another spill on the scale of the Exxon Valdez. The proposed change would replace the Stakeholder Committee with two smaller, weaker groups that would be far less effective, possibly to the point of near-irrelevance. … Continue reading