Council announces election of Board officers

Photo of Executive Committee for 2022-2023
PWSRCAC Executive Committee for May 2022-May 2023, left to right: Donaldson, Totemoff, Bauer, Archibald, Cutrell, and Beedle. Not pictured: Bob Shavelson.

The Council held its annual Board meeting in Valdez, Alaska, on May 5-6, 2022. Among other business, the Board convened to elect officers who will serve from May 2022 to May 2023.

The elected executive committee is comprised of:

  • President: Robert Archibald, representing the City of Homer
  • Vice President: Amanda Bauer, representing the City of Valdez
  • Treasurer: Wayne Donaldson, representing the City of Kodiak
  • Secretary: Bob Shavelson, representing the Oil Spill Region Environmental Coalition
  • Three Members-at-Large:
    • Ben Cutrell, representing Chugach Alaska Corporation
    • Robert Beedle, representing the City of Cordova
    • Angela Totemoff, representing the Community of Tatitlek

“I am honored to serve as president of the Board for another year,” said Robert Archibald. “As one of two regional citizens advisory councils in the nation, it is incumbent upon our organization to hold accountable industry and regulators. It is essential that the highest safety standards are maintained in order to prevent oil spills and make sure there is a strong response system in place should prevention measures fail in order to protect the citizens, Valdez Marine Terminal workforce, associated tanker crews, and Alaska’s environment which we hold so dear.”

The Council is grateful to have the support of its many volunteers from all over the Exxon Valdez oil spill region. The new executive committee is an excellent representation of the Council.

News release:

May 2022 Board Officers Press Release (0.5 MB)

Seward community engages with on-water oil spill response training

Seward community members observing vessels pulling oil spill boom. The Council held its fishing vessel oil spill response training observation tour in Seward, Alaska, on April 14, 2022. Before the COVID-19 pandemic, this had been an annual event since 2016, rotating through several communities in the region. The Seward community was invited to join the council from 11:30 a.m. to 1:30 p.m., on a Major Marine Tours vessel to observe the training.

Seward city clerk, Brenda Ballou, stated about the event, “I’ve been aware of the SERVS training for a long time, but never had the opportunity to actually take part in it or see it. I think it’s fantastic, everybody working together. It really is a service for the whole community.”

The local fishermen participating in the training are contracted by the Ship Escort/Response Vessel System, also known as SERVS, to respond in the event of a Prince William Sound tanker or Valdez Marine Terminal oil spill. SERVS is Alyeska Pipeline Service Company’s oil spill removal organization and coordinates annual spill response exercises in multiple Southcentral Alaska communities, including Seward.

This Council event helps keep communities informed on what oil spill prevention and response measures are in place in Prince William Sound and downstream communities, especially those involving their local fishermen. Seward residents learned about oil spill response technology, tactics and how this program helps Alyeska operate safely in Prince William Sound. Narrators from both the Council and Alyeska were on board to describe the oil spill response resources and tactics used to help participants better understand the training. We would like to thank our partners, Alyeska/SERVS and Major Marine Tours, for helping to support this event.

When asked why it was important for community members to learn about this program, attendee Mead Treadwell said, “I was around during Exxon Valdez and around during the creation of the fisherman’s program. Practice like this is important. It’s an impressive drill.”

While a local 10-year-old participant noted his favorite part was seeing the “giant orange boat” [the M/V Ross Chouest utility tug], others found the key takeaway to be the reassurance the event provided them. Participant Cindy Mans noted, “I’m actually really just encouraged by what I saw and absolutely the idea that the local people have the most invested if something goes wrong. Unfortunately, I view an oil spill as more of a ‘when’ instead of an ‘if.’ If we can keep it as small as possible and the least amount of impact, this is one of the pieces to make that happen.”

Alyeska’s contracted fishing fleet is the backbone of their oil spill response system. It is essential to the system operating as it was designed to do and part of what makes the Prince William Sound system world-class. These contracted vessels and their crews help ensure the most comprehensive response measures are in place for both open water and nearshore resources. A major lesson of the Exxon Valdez spill was that incorporating local mariners into the spill response system helps ensure a quick, efficient and effective response.

Since the inception of SERVS after the Exxon Valdez oil spill, the Council has been highly supportive of local fishermen and mariners being trained annually with the best available technology to prepare for oil spills. Seward mariners have the most intimate knowledge of, and connection to, the waters near Seward. Their involvement would help protect the most sensitive areas, such as hatcheries and spawning streams, from spilled oil.

The Council has held previous fishing vessel oil spill response training tours in Whittier, Cordova and Homer. The Council hopes that through such programs communities will understand the importance of oil spill prevention and having the most robust response strategies in place in the event of a spill.

News release: 

PWSRCAC Press Release - Seward Fishing Vessel Training Tour (0.5 MB)

Schantz and Archibald: Walking the talk on responsible energy development

Photo of Robert Archibald
Robert Archibald
Photo of Donna Schantz
Donna Schantz
Executive Director

Senator Josh Revak (R-Anchorage) recently stated in an Anchorage Daily News op-ed, “Alaska has and continues to be a shining example of responsible resource and energy development – where conservation and development have been proven to live in harmony; where stewardship of our lands, resources and environment is not falsely defined as mutually exclusive.” Senator Revak is not alone in this sentiment as this same assessment of responsible energy development is shared by many of Alaska’s political leaders. Governor Mike Dunleavy and Department of Environmental Conservation Commissioner Jason Brune have both stated this perspective.

If Alaska wants to remain an example of responsible energy development then it’s imperative to maintain robust environmental regulations and a strong frontline to oil spill prevention and response. While this is a key component to our state’s development future, over the last several years there has been a slow but steady erosion of Alaska’s ability to prevent oil spills, maintain adequate levels of readiness, and adequately respond should a major spill occur.

After the 1989 Exxon Valdez oil spill, citizens and the Alaska legislature worked diligently to ensure the state would be protected from the occurrence and consequences of major oil spills by enacting comprehensive laws and increasing regulatory oversight. These laws, and their related regulations, were based on real experiences and the lessons learned from the spill. Governor Dunleavy has himself noted that Alaska’s environmental standards for oil and gas development are widely considered among the best in the world.

The Spill Prevention and Response, or SPAR, Division within the Department of Environmental Conservation is charged with oil spill prevention, response, contingency planning, regulatory oversight, and other subjects related to the safe handling and transportation of oil and other hazardous substances. Since 2015, SPAR staffing has been reduced by 17 employees and the Governor’s FY2022 Operating Budget proposes cuts that would eliminate five more. The SPAR Division prevention and response work is funded primarily from a 5 cent per barrel surcharge on crude oil produced in the state and just under one cent per gallon surcharge on refined fuel products.

As throughput in the pipeline has decreased, so has the revenue to fund SPAR. This is the justification by the Dunleavy Administration for more cuts to the frontline agency charged with ensuring responsible energy development. While throughput may have decreased, the costs associated with adequate prevention and response systems have not.

If you can recall the images of oiled otters and sea birds, of oil spreading from the Exxon Valdez, then you know what is at stake and why these reductions must be prevented.

Fortunately, there is a remedy working its way through the Alaska Legislature. Section 5 of House Bill 104 proposes a half-a-cent increase to an existing revenue stream, the surcharge on refined fuels, in order to sustainably fund SPAR at existing staffing levels. This measure would preserve a level of protection and readiness in Prince William Sound, and the rest of the state, to help prevent a repeat of the devastation caused by the Exxon Valdez oil spill.

Given the solution presented through HB 104 and recognizing the importance of prevention and response work within the state, the finance subcommittee overseeing the budget for the Department of Environmental Conservation has restored the five positions proposed to be cut by the Dunleavy Administration. Hopefully as the budget and HB 104 move through the legislative process, legislators and political leaders who espouse Alaska’s example of responsible development will support these restorative actions for a fully functional SPAR Division.

With over 2,400 contaminated sites in Alaska and far fewer staff, the SPAR Division is having to make difficult choices about how to do less with less. Now is not the time to erode this essential, frontline prevention and response structure. The Council urges all legislators to support the small increase to the existing refined fuel surcharge and, equally important if and when HB 104 passes, encourages the Dunleavy Administration to maintain the FY2021 staffing levels within the SPAR Division. To do anything less would jeopardize the example our political leaders speak about, as well as the health and safety of our communities, economies, and environment.

Oped originally published in the Anchorage Daily News on April 3, 2021: Walking the talk on responsible energy development

Board of Directors met January 28 and 29

Photo of the 2019-2020 Council Board of Directors

The Council held a meeting on Thursday and Friday, January 28 and 29, 2021.

The Council conducted regular business during the meeting, including updates from Council ex-officio members, staff, and committees. Other topics included on the agenda were:

  • An activity report by Alyeska Pipeline Service Company on the Valdez Marine Terminal and Ship Escort/Response Vessel System operations, as well as an update on the allision earlier this month between the tanker Polar Endeavor and SERVS Tug Courageous at the Valdez Marine Terminal.
  • Comments from Alaska Department of Environmental Conservation Commissioner Jason Brune on the division’s proposed FY2022 budget.
  • A report on results of the 2020 forage fish surveys conducted in Prince William Sound to identify species along the shoreline, such as herring, sandlance, and capelin.
  • A presentation on maritime English use between ship crews and native English speakers in examining human factors that may contribute to accidents.
  • An update and presentation on current Council projects working to review maintenance of crude oil storage Tank 8 and cathodic protection systems at the Valdez Marine Terminal.
  • A presentation on the current status of identifying and mitigating the Barry Arm landslide risk in Prince William Sound.
  • A report of the Council’s monitoring of drills and exercises in 2020.
  • A summary by Council staff of incidents (e.g., oil spills, fires, malfunctions causing shutdowns, navigational closures, tanker/escort incidents) at the terminal or on the associated tankers that occurred in 2020.

Council board meetings are routinely recorded and may be disseminated to the public by the council or by the news media.

News release:

Prince William Sound RCAC Board Meeting Will Be Virtual, January 28-29 (0.2 MB)

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