Public input needed to safeguard Prince William Sound

Alaska’s oil spill prevention and response standards at risk

Last updated: November 1, 2021

The Alaska Department of Environmental Conservation (ADEC) is proposing changes to regulations that protect Prince William Sound. Public input on these changes will be critical. 

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About the laws that govern Alaska’s regulations

Alaska’s oil spill regulations are based on Alaska State Statute 46.04. These laws were designed to:

  1. Prevent oil spills.
  2. Ensure enough trained responders and equipment are in place should prevention measures fail.
Find out why these proposed changes could affect Alaska. Read a report about Alaska's Oil Spill Response Planning Standard at the link.
Find out why these proposed changes could affect Alaska. Read about the bill that created Alaska’s world-renowned oil spill preparedness and response system: Alaska’s Oil Spill Response Planning Standard

This statute includes Alaska’s Oil Spill “Response Planning Standard.”

This standard was created after the Exxon Valdez oil spill. The spill response system in place in 1989 was a massive failure. This standard established a foundation that continues to distinguish Alaska, and particularly Prince William Sound, as having a world-class preparedness and response system.

It is ADEC’s job to write regulations that support those laws.

Both laws and regulations must undergo public review and comment before they can be changed. Changes to the laws are not being proposed at this time.

Find out more about the differences between statutes (laws) and regulations

What changes are being proposed?

The proposed changes to regulations have not yet been released to the public, so we are not sure yet. They are expected to be presented for public review in early November 2021.

Previous actions

In 2019, ADEC opened a public scoping process to solicit input from stakeholders, the public, and industry on areas where Alaska’s Oil Spill Regulations 18 AAC 75 – Article 4 and Alaska State Statute 46.04, Oil and Hazardous Substance Pollution Control, could be streamlined.

ADEC received over 350 comments from approximately 130 parties. The vast majority of the commenters supported maintaining the regulations as they currently stand and were adamant that there should be no reduction in environmental protections provided by Alaska statutes and regulations.

ADEC has reviewed that input and is preparing a package of proposed changes. Once released, a formal public comment period will be held. This public review is expected to begin in late 2021 and end in early 2022. ADEC has promised 90 days to provide input.

Input from the public will be critical

Strong statutes and regulations are one of the main reasons why Alaska has not had a major oil spill since the Exxon Valdez disaster.

The world-class oil spill prevention and response system for the Valdez Marine Terminal and associated tankers is a direct result of the laws and regulations designed to protect Alaskans and our environment, as well as commercial and sport fishing, aquaculture, recreation, tourism, subsistence, and cultural interests.

Protecting our communities and the environment is the cost of doing business in Alaska. 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 they were designed to protect.

How you can help

Public input will be needed. Help us strongly oppose any changes that:

  • Erode oil spill prevention and response standards
  • Increase the risk of a catastrophic spill
  • Demonstrate a return of the complacency on the part of the oil industry and regulators that Congress determined to be a primary cause of the Exxon Valdez oil spill.

Sign up to receive updates: The Council will be sending out information on this public comment period and future changes. Please contact staff member Linda Swiss to be added to the email list. 

No changes to laws proposed at this time

While regulations can be changed by the agency that oversees them (in this case ADEC), state statutes (laws) can only be amended by the State Legislature. This means that ADEC will need to propose any statutory changes during a legislative session in Juneau. Should that occur, public input to individual representatives in the House and Senate will be crucial to preventing rollback of state statutes that protect our communities, local economies, and the environment.

Public input will be needed to strongly oppose any changes to regulations that would 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 the oil industry and regulators that Congress determined to be a primary cause of the Exxon Valdez oil spill.


Latest updates:

Important public comment period now open

Important public comment period now open
The Alaska Department of Environmental Conservation (ADEC) is proposing changes to regulations that protect Prince William Sound. The comment period ...
Read more.

Potential regulation changes to undergo extended public comment period

Tanker at berth.
Before the state’s oil spill regulations are modified, any proposed changes will undergo an extended public comment period, according to ...
Read more.

Council comments on State’s public scoping

Council comments on State's public scoping
Yesterday the Council submitted comments on the Alaska Department of Environmental Conservation's public scoping on the state's oil spill contingency ...
Read more.

News release: Public input needed to safeguard state protections

News release: Public input needed to safeguard state protections
By Robert Archibald Board President Also published in the Anchorage Daily News In 1971, the Alaska Legislature formed the Department ...
Read more.

Transparency is the foundation of public trust

Donna Schantz
By Donna Schantz Executive Director Public trust in our oil spill prevention and response system took many years to rebuild ...
Read more.

Alaska’s oil spill laws and regulations opened for public review

Alaska’s oil spill laws and regulations opened for public review
The Alaska Department of Environmental Conservation recently began a process to review and potentially change oil spill laws and regulations ...
Read more.

“The notion that safety can be ensured in the shipping industry through self-regulation has proved false and should be abandoned as a premise for policy. Alert regulatory agencies, subject to continuous public oversight, are needed to enforce laws governing the safe shipment of oil.”

– Alaska Oil Spill Commission Report (1990), The Wreck of the Exxon Valdez: Implications for Safe Transportation of Oil


Documents 

This table includes documents dating back to 2019, when ADEC first issued the public scoping comment period.

Document titleFile sizeDate distributedDescription of content
Document titleFile sizeDate distributedDescription of content
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