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

From the Executive Director: Ignore the lessons of history at our own peril

Twenty six years have passed since the Exxon Valdez grounded on Bligh Reef, spilling an estimated 11 million gallons of crude oil into Prince William Sound. The spill devastated the environment, fishing industry, our economy, and livelihoods. Our organization was created in the wake of this disaster to work with industry, government, and local communities to understand how this happened and to use the lessons from the Exxon Valdez spill to advocate for safeguards designed to make sure nothing like it happens again. Thanks to the foresight, vigilance and tireless efforts of elected officials, regulators, industry, and citizens, the oil spill prevention and response system now in place in Prince William Sound is a model to the rest of the world. … Continue reading