Board Resolution 19-03: Safeguarding Alaska’s Oil Spill Prevention and Response Standards

Photo of the 2019-2020 Council Board of Directors
Cover of report titled "Alaska's Oil Spill Response Planning Standard - History and Legislative Intent
To find out more about the history and legislative intent of Alaska’s strong Response Planning Standards, read the Council’s August 2018 report: Alaska’s Oil Spill Response Planning Standard – History and Legislative Intent (Council report/PDF)

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 ;

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Board passes resolution commending Douglas K. Mertz

Resolution 19-02:

Commending and Expressing Gratitude for Douglas K. Mertz’s Dedication
and Service to the Prince William Sound Regional Citizens’ Advisory Council and the State of Alaska

Photo of appreciation gift presented to Doug Mertz and Margo Waring.
Appreciation gift presented to Doug Mertz and Margo Waring by Board President Robert Archibald and Executive Director Donna Schantz on May 3, 2019.

Whereas, Douglas K. Mertz launched his Alaska legal career in 1974 as Law Clerk to Hon. Jay A. Rabinowitz, Chief Justice of the Alaska Supreme Court, quickly advancing to several Assistant Attorney General positions he held in Fairbanks and Juneau from 1975 to 1991, before entering private law practice in 1991;

Whereas, one of Doug Mertz’s primary areas of focus in over 45 years of legal practice in Alaska has been oil transportation and pollution issues;

Whereas, Doug Mertz was the State of Alaska’s primary counsel on spill matters and Trans Alaska Pipeline System (TAPS) regulation from 1977-1990;

Whereas, Doug Mertz represented the State for the Chevron v. Hammond case in the U.S. Court of Appeals, establishing that state oil spill penalties are not preempted by federal law;

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Recognizing the 30th anniversary of the Exxon Valdez oil spill

Resolution 19-01:

Recognizing the 30th anniversary of the Exxon Valdez oil spill, supporting high standards and safeguards for the Valdez Marine Terminal and associated tankers, and continued work to create the best response system possible should prevention measures fail

Floating oil spill boom from Exxon Valdez oil spill
Tangled boom from the 1989 cleanup. Photo by Charles Ehler, courtesy of Alaska Resource Library & Information Services.

Whereas, on March 24, 1989, the Exxon Valdez ran aground on Bligh Reef and spilled an estimated 11 million gallons of crude oil and oiling some 1,300 miles of Alaska coastline;

Whereas, March 24, 2019, marks 30 years since this disaster;

Whereas, Congress determined that complacency on the part of industry and government was a contributing factor in the accident and mandated citizen involvement in the oversight of crude oil terminals and tankers;

Whereas, the Prince William Sound Regional Citizens’ Advisory Council, an independent non-profit corporation whose mission, as mandated by the Oil Pollution Act of 1990, is to promote environmentally safe operation of the Valdez Marine Terminal and associated tankers;

Whereas, the Council represents communities, commercial fishing, aquaculture, Alaska Native, recreation, tourism, and environmental organizations in the region adversely impacted by the 1989 Exxon Valdez oil spill;

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Council issues position on safe crude oil tanker transit and escort vessel operation in the Sound

The Seward spill response fleet trains for spill response.

The Council voted unanimously on January 18, 2018, to pass a resolution stating that oil tankers and escort vessels should not be permitted to transit through Prince William Sound and into the Gulf of Alaska in weather conditions which have been determined by industry to be unsafe for training.

The resolution was prompted by the upcoming change in marine service contract providers by Alyeska Pipeline Service Company’s Ship Escort/Response Vessel System, including crude oil tanker escort vessel services, effective July 2018. Council executive director Donna Schantz stated, “The oil tanker escort system in Prince William Sound is an essential oil spill prevention measure that is vital to reducing the risk of another catastrophic event, such as the 1989 Exxon Valdez spill.”

“If it is unsafe to train personnel, it is unsafe to transport oil,” said Council Board president Amanda Bauer. “This position does not just apply to the incoming contractor, but sets the standard to which the council feels all future new contractors, equipment and crews should be held. We believe strongly that these standards are needed to ensure the economic and environmental safety of the communities and groups we represent.”

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