New guidelines for using dispersants proposed

Council Administrative Deputy Director

The Alaska Regional Response Team has proposed new guidelines for how chemical dispersants are approved for use in Alaska’s waters.

This team is an advisory board of resource trustee agencies that provides federal, state, and local governmental agencies with the means to participate in pollution incident response.

The announcement of these new proposed guidelines came in October, and the team held a series of public meetings to discuss the new approval procedures in November in five Southcentral Alaska communities. Council representatives attended three of the five meetings in Kodiak, Anchorage and Valdez. The other two meetings were held out of the council’s geographic area.

The meetings explained how the new guidelines would be used to determine if dispersants could be authorized during a response to an oil spill.

While overall, the council believes many of the proposed changes are positive, there are still many questions within the guidelines that need to be answered.

The biggest proposed change would eliminate currently preapproved dispersant use areas in coastal state waters, Prince William Sound, and Cook Inlet. A new dispersant preapproved zone would be created between 24 and 200 nautical miles (approximately 27.6 to 230 miles) offshore, stretching from Yakutat to Attu. In the event of a spill, chemical dispersants could be applied in this vast area of ocean without additional public input, at the discretion of the lead federal spill response coordinator.

Other areas of concern in the proposed guidelines include:

  • Some scientific questions regarding when and how dispersants are most effective
  • The specifics of the environmental tradeoffs that must be considered to justify dispersant use
  • The process for consulting stakeholders when dispersants are being considered outside of the proposed preauthorized areas.

The council encourages the public’s participation in the review process for this important change to the Alaska Unified Plan for spill response. Comments are being received by the Alaska Regional Response Team until February 14, 2014 at the following address:

Commander (DRM)
17th Coast Guard District
P.O. Box 25517
Juneau, AK 99802-5517

The council created a reader-friendly overview of the changes. You can find the council’s comments and overview of the proposed changes here:  Opportunity for public comment on guidelines for use of dispersants in Alaska

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