Alaska’s environmental conservation agency is looking for public input into revising oil spill prevention and contingency plan requirements, prompting criticism from the advisory council created in the wake of the 1989 Exxon Valdez oil spill disaster.
“Strong statues and regulations are a big part of why Alaska has not had a major oil spill since the Exxon Valdez disaster,” said Donna Schantz, executive director of the Prince William Sound Regional Citizens’ Advisory Council. “It is unreasonable for the Alaska Department of Environmental Conservation (DEC) to claim now, after 30 profitable years of industry compliance, that the requirements are too onerous.”
The council wants the state to halt the scoping process until more information is offered to the public on the driving factors that have prompted the move for changes in current regulations.
DEC officials said they specifically want to hear whether the current regulations can be made more understandable without compromising environmental protection or if any portions of those regulations may be outdated or duplicative. The agency also is seeking comment on its statutory authorities relevant to contingency planning.
Current regulations on both issues are available online as 18 AAC 75 Article 4 (http://www.legis.state.ak.us/basis/aac.asp#18.75.400) and AS 46.04 (http://www.akleg.gov/basis/statutes.asp#46.04).
The council’s announcement of Nov. 4 included a copy of its resolution passed on Oct. 29, advising against any legislative or regulatory changes that erode oil spill prevention and response standards, increase the risk of a catastrophic spill or demonstrate what the council describes as a return to complacency on the part of the oil industry and regulators that Congress determined were a primary cause of the Exxon Valdez disaster. The oil slick spread to cover some 1,300 miles of coastline, causing the collapse of salmon and herring fisheries, and killing thousands of seabirds, otters, seal and whales.
Protecting coastal communities and the environment is the cost of doing business in Alaska, said Robert Archibald, president of the council board. “Reducing any perceived burden to industry by 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,” he said.
More information about the history and legislative intent of the Response Planning Standards is included in the council’s August 2018 report, available online at www.bit.ly/LegislativeIntent.
Comments are being accepted through Jan. 15, 2020. They may be submitted electronically by visiting http://alaskadec.commentinput.com or mailed to Seth Robinson, Alaska Department of Environmental Conservation, Division of Spill Prevention and Response – Prevention, preparedness, and Response Program, 610 University Avenue, Fairbanks, AK 99709 or emailed to email@example.com.