Louisiana’s Edison Chouest Offshore to take over from Crowley in 2018 as Alyeska’s maritime contractor

Council invited to observe trainings, ship construction, on-water exercises

Edison Chouest plans to purchase several barges currently in use in Prince William Sound, including the 500-2. The 500-2 is a support barge for spill recovery operations near shore.

In June, Alyeska Pipeline officially confirmed that Edison Chouest Offshore will take over from Crowley Maritime as the provider of oil spill prevention and response services for the terminal and tankers in Prince William Sound. The overlap of Crowley and Edison Chouest’s marine assets in Prince William Sound will take place over a three to six week period in the summer of 2018.

The contract, signed in early August, is effective until 2028.

Edison Chouest is planning five new escort tugs, four new general purpose tugs, three new barges, and two line boats. Construction of the general purpose tugs began this summer. Edison Chouest is planning to purchase two barges currently in Prince William Sound and build three new barges.

Edison Chouest owns shipyards in the Gulf of Mexico, and the majority of the testing will be done nearby. Further testing will be done in Puget Sound and later in Prince William Sound once the vessels arrive in the region.
Alyeska has promised further details about the vessels such as escorting performance specifications, firefighting capabilities, and spill response equipment in the near future.

Observing the process

The council is attending meetings along with ADEC, the Coast Guard, and Crowley for updates and information from Alyeska and Edison Chouest. Roy Robertson, the council’s drill monitor, has been attending on behalf of the council.
“They have offered us the opportunity to observe vessel construction, crew trainings, and on-water exercises,” said Robertson. “We are setting aside funds for these trips to the shipyards and training facilities in the Gulf of Mexico.”

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Foreign tankers arrive in Prince William Sound

Council observing process

The 900-foot long Tianlong Spirit was built in 2009 and is registered in the Bahamas. Photo by Doug Craig.

Two foreign-flagged tankers hauled Alaska North Slope crude oil from the Valdez terminal this summer for the first time in over 30 years. The last time non-U.S. vessels shipped Alaska crude to foreign refineries was in the 1980s when West Coast refineries could not keep up with the amount of crude coming out of the pipeline.

The first tanker, the Tianlong Spirit, visited the terminal late last July and the second, the Cascade Spirit, arrived in early August. Both are chartered by BP, and owned by Teekay Corporation.

A ban on selling U.S. oil was put in place during the 1970s Arab oil embargo in an effort to keep Alaskan oil in the U.S. At the time, the U.S. was in the middle of an energy crisis and gasoline prices were soaring. Alaska oil was exempted from the ban in 1995 under President Clinton, although the oil still had to be transported by U.S.-flagged tankers. Congress lifted the export ban for the rest of the U.S. in late 2015, which the Alaska delegation sought for the past 20 years. This change also allowed foreign tankers to transport oil out of the U.S.

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Council applauds decision to keep public engagement tool for spill response in Alaska

Recent council concerns about a proposed change to Alaska’s spill response plan have been alleviated for now. However, the council is following a new proposal that also has the potential to affect stakeholder input.

In a letter to the council on September 1, the Alaska Department of Environmental Conservation, or ADEC, announced that its proposal to change the Regional Stakeholder Committee had been withdrawn. The Regional Stakeholder Committee is a vital tool for public involvement during oil spills, and has been effective for communication during spill drills and exercises in Prince William Sound for over a decade.

Early in 2016, the Alaska Regional Response Team, or ARRT, a group made up of 15 different federal and state agencies that share responsibilities for managing oil and chemical spill responses in Alaska, proposed changes that could have reduced the council’s, and the public’s, access to important information about a spill. The change would also have reduced citizens’ input to spill response leaders.

Involving citizens was recognized by Congress and Alaskans as an important aspect in oil-spill laws and regulations that were overhauled after the Exxon spill.

During the public comment period that followed, the council and several local communities and organizations supported keeping the committee as it was, rather than splitting stakeholders into two groups. One of the new groups, which would have included the council, would have received far less information and access to decision-makers than the other.

ADEC stated that the workgroup that put the proposal forward met on August 31, at which time a determination was made to withdraw the proposal. Continue reading

Kate Morse: Volunteer helps connect new generations with council’s mission

Morse and her husband Andy will soon be welcoming twin girls into their little Cordova family. Photo courtesy of Kate Morse.

Kate Morse was nine years old and living in Pennsylvania when the Exxon Valdez hit Bligh Reef in 1989. Although she didn’t directly experience the spill personally, she now works to bring the spill to life for a new generation.

Morse has been the Program Director for Cordova’s Copper River Watershed Project since 2008. The organization is based in Cordova but does work throughout the Copper River watershed drainage area, which includes not only Cordova, but Glennallen, Kenny Lake, Mentasta Lake, and Paxson. Morse says the area is about the size of West Virginia, and the population of the region depends on healthy salmon runs.

“It takes an entire watershed to support healthy salmon populations due to their complex life cycle from salt to fresh water and back to salt water again,” says Morse. “Our education programs really aim at getting people to see themselves as part of a watershed community, rather than just the stream in their backyard.”

She says her organization tracks the council’s projects closely because the Trans-Alaska pipeline runs through the Copper River basin.

“There are major river systems in the area,” Morse says. “The prospect of removing oil from a glacial river, how the oil would contaminate the entire water column and the glacial sediments, it would be impossible to clean it up.”

“Prevention is definitely the key.” Continue reading