Division of Spill Prevention and Response


Oil Dispersant Guidelines:

Unified Plan, Annex F, Appendix I

Alaska Regional Response Team representatives from the Alaska Department of Environmental Conservation, US Coast Guard, Environmental Protection Agency, Department of Commerce, and Department of Interior signed and enacted new Dispersant Use Preauthorization Guidelines on January 27, 2016. These guidelines will be incorporated into Annex F (Non-mechanical Response Guidelines) of the Unified Plan. Signing the plan initiates a two year window in which Federal On-scene Coordinators must seek input from subarea-specific stakeholders to identify "avoidance areas" within the pre-authorization area, shown below.

Nearly 700 public comments (see left column) on the draft plan were received between November 2013 and February 2014 during a robust public outreach campaign, which included information sharing at public meetings in King Salmon, Anchorage, Valdez, and Dutch Harbor. Formal tribal consultation with federally recognized tribes and Native corporations was held at the Dena'ina Center during the Bureau of Indian Affairs Tribal Provider's conference in Anchorage; at University of Alaska Anchorage's Commons, and at the Dena'ina Center during the 2014 Alaska Forum for the Environment.

These changes:

  • Defined the pre-authorization area, i.e. the area in which the US Coast Guard’s Federal On-Scene Coordinator (FOSC) is authorized to approve dispersant use after coordination with other members of the Alaska Regional Response Team, federally recognized tribes, and stakeholders. 
  • Defined “case-by-case” areas where the decision to use dispersants requires approval from the Environmental Protection Agency’s FOSC, US Coast Guard’s FOSC, and the Alaska Department of Environmental Conservation’s State On-Scene Coordinator when state waters are threatened, with input from members of the Alaska Regional Response Team, Department of Interior, and Department of Commerce. 
  • Required companies shipping crude oil to stockpile dispersants in Alaska and be able to use them within seven hours following an “approval for use” decision. 
  • Outlined procedures for stakeholders, including federally recognized tribes, to identify “exclusion zones” (i.e. areas within the preauthorization area where dispersant use should be considered on a case-by-case basis). 
  • Described the process for approving, testing, evaluating, monitoring, and reporting dispersant use. 
NOTE:  Pre-authorization is not the same as “pre-approval.”  Pre-authorization merely streamlines the review and approval processes for dispersant use requests. 


The preauthorization area (shown in red) begins 24 miles offshore and extends southward to the Exclusive Economic Zone, located 200 miles offshore, and 100 miles north of the Aleutian Chain. Two anchor points, located at Cape Suckling and Cape Sarichef, ensure all vessels entering Southcentral Alaska from the south, and traffic using the Great Circle route through Unimak Pass are subject to these dispersant preauthorization requirements.