Falling oil prices shouldn’t mean reduced environmental protections

From Executive Director Mark Swanson: Oil prices have been falling for a long while now. Stock markets and energy sectors are volatile. This is good news or bad news depending on whether you are in the business of buying or selling crude oil, heating a home with expensive heating oil, or funding a government from revenue derived from the oil industry. Our dependence on oil revenues and oil products, along with our vulnerability to oil spills and fossil fuel-related climate changes, place us on an increasingly unpredictable roller coaster. You may have a slightly different ride depending where in the train of cars you sit, but make no mistake, we are all on the same track, and live in the same environment. … Continue reading

How can we combine efforts and verify response capabilities?

From Executive Director Mark Swanson: The safe transportation of oil requires that the industry plan extensively for spill prevention and response. Beyond planning, extensive practice of the tactics described in the plans help verify that these spill response plans will work as written. Drills and exercises conducted today are many and varied. These drills test different federal and state requirements. Some are aimed at maintaining proficiency, others verify response capabilities and strategies, or marine firefighting or salvage plans. With so many drills and exercises, surely there must be an opportunity to combine drills for the needs of both shippers and regulators for cost savings and efficiency, particularly in Alaska, where companies often share the same response contractors, equipment, and plans, without sacrificing preparedness. … Continue reading

In tough economy, good news for risk of oil spills in Alaska

From Mark Swanson Council Executive Director Everywhere we turn, we see fiscal belt tightening. State budgets are the leanest we have seen in almost three decades. Federal budgets are also lean. We all know the conversation around the kitchen table when home finances become tight. When unexpected expenditures exceed projected revenue, something’s got to give. We ask ourselves what’s needed and what’s discretionary. The house looks like it needs paint but maybe that could wait a year. Can we delay without incurring expensive damage to increasingly exposed wood? Can we get another year or two out of those already four year old tires without risking an expensive or dangerous accident? … Continue reading

To prevent oil spills, we must focus on the right risks

From the Executive Director: Only in hindsight can we perfectly zero in on the most important details. We’d like to be able to say we can see what’s coming and prepare for the best possible outcome. Often, however, the details that matter only appear obvious after the dust has settled. We complacently assume that if nothing changes what worked yesterday should work tomorrow. We are suspicious of change, assuming that change increases risk for undesired outcomes. Perhaps. … Continue reading