The Prince William Sound Regional Citizens’ Advisory Council passed Resolution 19-03 on October 29, 2019: Safeguarding Alaska’s Oil Spill Prevention and Response Standards
WHEREAS, after the 1989 Exxon Valdez oil spill, Congress found that complacency on the part of industry and regulators played a role in the spill, the public trust was broken, and one way to combat this complacency and rebuild trust was to involve the public, those with the most to lose in the event of a large spill, in decisions that affect the safe transportation of oil;
WHEREAS, Congress enacted the Oil Pollution Act of 1990 that included, among other things, the creation of citizen advisory councils for Cook Inlet and Prince William Sound;
WHEREAS, after the Exxon Valdez oil spill, Alaska citizens and the Alaska Legislature worked together to protect the state from major oil spills by enacting comprehensive laws and regulations (Council report/PDF) dealing with prevention, response, contingency planning, financial responsibility, oversight, monitoring, and other subjects related to the safe handling and transportation of oil and other hazardous substances;
WHEREAS, these laws and regulations were based on real world experiences and the painful lessons of the Exxon Valdez oil spill and were crafted in coordination with State government and oil industry partners, requiring extensive compromise in the determined Response Planning Standards ;
WHEREAS, oil spill prevention and response contingency planning regulations were adopted by the State of Alaska in 1992, and the regulations have been revised on nine occasions to clarify the requirements, streamline the review process, and make the process of drafting contingency plans less onerous and the review of those plans more predictable and expeditious;
WHEREAS, as a result of post-Exxon Valdez oil spill laws and regulations, Alaska has world-class oil spill prevention and response requirements to protect its people and its environment, as well as commercial and sport fishing, aquaculture, recreation, tourism, subsistence, and cultural interests;
WHEREAS, on October 15, 2019, the State of Alaska’s Department of Environmental Conservation Commissioner issued a public scoping notice seeking input on existing regulations and statutes because he has “heard from many Alaskans that contingency plans are unnecessarily burdensome while lacking corresponding environmental benefits,” and that his Department has identified regulations that can be eliminated or significantly reformed;
WHEREAS, despite repeated requests, the Alaska Department of Environmental Conservation has yet to identify the companies, organizations, or Alaskans that have said the existing system is too burdensome, or identify the regulations or statutes they believe can be eliminated or significantly reformed;
WHEREAS, it is unreasonable for the Department of Environmental Conservation to claim now, after 30 profitable years of industry compliance with the laws and regulations, that they are too burdensome, and this claim disregards the hard work of hundreds of Alaskans who worked tirelessly after the Exxon Valdez oil spill to create oil spill prevention and response standards, to ensure that the State of Alaska would never again suffer an environmental disaster like the Exxon Valdez oil spill;
WHEREAS, reducing the burden on industry by rolling back or eliminating proven oil spill prevention and response requirements transfers the risk and burden of another oil spill to the communities, citizens, and environment; and
WHEREAS, Alaska’s Congressional Delegation has steadfastly supported over the past thirty years prudent and sensible actions to help lessen the risks, trauma, and injury to Alaska from another major oil spill.
NOW THEREFORE BE IT RESOLVED, that, in its statutory advisory role, the Prince William Sound Regional Citizens’ Advisory Council strongly advises against any legislative or regulatory changes that erode oil spill prevention and response standards, increase the risk of a catastrophic spill, or demonstrate a return of the complacency on the part of oil the industry and regulators that Congress determined to be a primary cause of the Exxon Valdez oil spill;
BE IT FURTHER RESOLVED, that the Prince William Sound Regional Citizens’ Advisory Council believes that, if the system created after the 1989 spill is weakened, Alaskans will likely face an increased risk of reliving another major oil spill that could damage Alaska’s commercial, sport and subsistence fishing, sport and subsistence hunting, other businesses, fish, wildlife, environment, and the culture and quality of life of the people;
BE IT FURTHER RESOLVED, that the Prince William Sound Regional Citizens’ Advisory Council advises that the State of Alaska halt this Public Scoping process until detailed information is provided to the public as to the driving factors that led to this regulatory and statutory reform initiative, identifying the Alaskans, including individuals, companies and organizations, who have contacted them with claims that the existing regulations are too burdensome, and by providing information on the statutes and regulations the Department claims can be eliminated or significantly reformed; and
BE IT FURTHER RESOLVED, that the Prince William Sound Regional Citizens’ Advisory Council strongly recommends that Alaskans interested in maintaining safety standards designed to protect the state’s environment, people, and economy from catastrophic oil spills contact the Alaska Department of Environmental Conservation to register their views regarding any weakening of existing safeguards.
PASSED and APPROVED by the Prince William Sound Regional Citizens’ Advisory Council Board of Directors on this 29th day of October, 2019.