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DEC Notes Improvements in Spill Response since EVOS

  • For immediate release — March 22, 2019
  • Media Contact: Laura Achee, 907-465-5009

Anchorage, AK — On March 24, 1989 the Exxon Valdez ran aground in Prince William Sound, spilling 11 million gallons of crude oil. The spill had a lasting effect on Alaskans.

“The Exxon Valdez Oil Spill changed how we do things in Alaska,” said Department of Environmental Conservation Commissioner Jason Brune. “Thirty years later, thanks to lessons learned from the spill, Alaska has become one of the safest jurisdictions for energy development in the world. As we work to lure the investment necessary to increase throughput in the Trans Alaska Pipeline System from Alaska’s prolific North Slope oil resources, we must remain vigilant in the safe production, storage, and movement of oil.”

Since 1989, the Alaska Department of Environmental Conservation (DEC) and its partners including industry, communities, Regional Citizen Advisory Councils, and the federal government have implemented the following changes to prevent oil spills and be better prepared to respond to spills should they occur.

  • Prior to 1989 there were limited tank vessel escorts in place. Today 100% of the tank vessels entering and leaving Prince William Sound are escorted by powerful tugs capable of conducting rescue and response operations to prevent disaster.
  • Prevention and contingency planning is a large part of the work of DEC. Today there are 139 approved plans that cover prevention and response readiness for tank vessels, barges, exploration and production facilities, the Valdez Marine Terminal (VMT), pipelines, tank farms, and the railroad.
  • DEC conducts comprehensive inspections and maintains a robust drill and exercise program that requires regulated petroleum industry operators statewide to regularly demonstrate their response capabilities.
  • The Oil Pollution Act of 1990 (OPA 90) required the phase in of double hulled tankers by 2015. OPA 90 also required all tanker traffic in Prince William Sound to be electronically monitored while transiting the sound all the way to 60 miles out into the Gulf of Alaska.

DEC has also directly undertaken efforts to improve spill response across Alaska.

  • DEC now has 51 containers spread statewide to assist local communities with initial response activities.
  • In addition to the response containers, DEC has 10 emergency towing kits pre-staged at key locations with regular ship traffic. These kits are designed to be deployed via vessel or helicopter, and they have been used to successfully control vessels and avert disaster.

“The collective work of DEC and our partners has led to major improvements in the prevention of spills and the ability to effectively respond when they do occur,” said Brune. “Alaska has more coastline than the rest of the US combined, so our work is not done. We must continue to respond to new challenges that arise from increased international traffic through Alaskan waters, including the arctic.”

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