The Alaska Department of Environmental Conservation recently proposed changes to the regulations that govern how oil spills are prevented and cleaned up in Alaska. These changes were open for public comment from November 2021 through January 2022.
During its review, the Council noted positive changes, including:
- increased clarity within regulations,
- combination of redundant sections, and
- use of technology to modernize workflow.
However, the Council also identified concerns with some of the changes. Among these, the four highest level concerns are:
- Reduction in drills and exercises: The proposed changes could potentially reduce the number of oil spill drills and exercises for larger crude operators, such as those in Prince William Sound. These activities are an important part of the prevention and response system. To effectively prevent or clean up a spill, responders must practice ahead of an actual emergency.
- Assurance that technology is up to date: Regulations require that modern oil spill technologies are studied and incorporated when plans are updated. Currently, this includes holding a conference to advance this knowledge, but the proposed version removes this requirement.
- Notifying citizen councils: The existing regulations require both RCACs (Prince William Sound and Cook Inlet) be notified and receive printed materials during contingency plan renewals, updates, and amendments. That language has been removed, instead noting that “interested stakeholders” will be notified that these materials are available for review by an ADEC listserv.
While the Council supports electronic distribution, which allows searching, both Councils should continue to be named as recipients required to be notified and receive materials. After the Exxon Valdez oil spill, the U.S. Congress specifically recognized the RCACs’ special role in reviewing contingency plans within the Oil Pollution Act of 1990. The Alaska Oil Spill Commission similarly recommended integrating the RCACs into a state system of citizen oversight including government agency operations.
- Towing equipment for Alaska weather: The proposed regulations would change tow package requirements for tankers calling at the Valdez Marine Terminal. While the adoption of International Maritime Organization standards for emergency towing arrangements is appropriate, regulations should also require that tankers calling at the terminal be able to deploy the arrangement from the bow position in 15 minutes.
Read the Council’s full comments: