Council report documents the history and intent behind Alaska’s standard for spill response planning
Alaska, and Prince William Sound in particular, is known for its world-class oil spill prevention and response system. But it wasn’t always that way. In March of 1989, when the Exxon Valdez ran aground and spilled an estimated 11 million gallons of crude oil, responders were ill-prepared.
“Nothing arrived. There was nothing there.”
– Marilyn Heiman
Staff member for the Alaska House Resources Committee,
on the experience of waiting days for equipment to arrive.
Prince William Sound was a hive of activity this summer. On July 1, Alyeska’s marine services contractor transitioned from Crowley Maritime Corporation to Edison Chouest Offshore.
This transition means all of the escort tugs and much of the spill prevention and response equipment in Prince William Sound are brand new, or new to the Sound.
Demonstrations of the new equipment
The Alaska Department of Environmental Conservation required that each vessel and crew member demonstrate their capabilities before beginning service. Each tug, as well as each tug’s captain, had to perform a set of maneuvers which differed according to the vessel and its purpose.
The Alaska Department of Environmental Conservation recently approved major amendments to oil spill contingency plans for both the Valdez Marine Terminal and for the tankers that transport oil through Prince William Sound. Both approvals came with conditions.
Neither the tanker plan, nor the terminal plan was due for a renewal. However, Edison Chouest Offshore is bringing so much new equipment and personnel to their new role as Alyeska’s marine services contractor that major changes were needed to both plans. Major amendments require a public comment period.
Many changes stemming from transition of marine services contractor to Edison Chouest
By Linda Swiss
Council Project Manager
Updates to two oil spill prevention and response contingency plans are currently underway. The Alaska Department of Environmental Conservation, or ADEC, solicited public comments regarding the changes to the spill prevention and response plans this past summer.
The plans are prepared by the operators of Alyeska’s marine terminal and oil tankers and are subject to state approval. These plans specify what operators will do to prevent and clean up oil spills. There are separate plans for spills from the Valdez Marine Terminal and from the tankers that carry oil. Both plans undergo an approval process approximately every five years. With the marine services transition in Prince William Sound, Edison Chouest Offshore’s new equipment means the details in the plans will change, triggering a public review.
In 43 pages of formal comments submitted to ADEC in August and September, the Council made a number of recommendations to either maintain the same level of preparedness or improve the proposed plans.