Opinion: Remaining vigilant after 30 years

Exxon Valdez spurred both federal and state legislatures, the industry, and the public to come together

  • By Shaylon Cochran
  • Thursday, July 21, 2022 11:39pm
  • Opinion

By Shaylon Cochran

It’s almost hard to believe it’s been more than 30 years since the Exxon Valdez oil spill. One reason is because the work done since then has prevented a slide back into complacency by continuing to apply the lessons learned in the immediate aftermath of the spill.

Exxon Valdez spurred both federal and state legislatures, the industry, and the public to come together to establish laws protecting sensitive resources from another spill.

One of those, Alaska House Bill 567, celebrated its 30th anniversary on June 25. This law created, among other things, Alaska’s world-class set of spill response regulations. Federal legislation would reinforce these principles in 1990, when the Cook Inlet Regional Citizens Advisory Council (CIRCAC) was created. We represent 13 diverse groups from Kodiak to Anchorage including Alaska Native groups, municipal governments and public interests like fishing, tourism, aquaculture, recreation and environmental concerns. We work closely with regulators and the industry to ensure not only that those interests are recognized and accounted for in response planning, but also to keep the public informed about issues that could potentially compromise the ability to effectively respond to an incident.

When it was clear that the planned response to Exxon Valdez was woefully inadequate to the unprecedented scope of the spill, the Alaska Department of Environmental Conservation took a lead role in adapting response strategy to meet those challenges. The end result was the most comprehensive suite of oil spill response strategies ever imagined. We remain committed to those laws and over the ensuing 30 years, we have worked to add strength and clarity to them.

When Gov. Steve Cowper finally signed HB 567 into law in the waning hours of the legislative session on June 27, 1990, the bill’s passage signaled that opposing interests could come together in relatively short order, and under great pressure, to do the right thing.

That is a lesson that can never be taught enough, even after 30 years.

Shaylon Cochran is the director of public outreach for the Cook Inlet Regional Citizens Advisory Council, established in 1990 to represent the citizens of Cook Inlet in promoting environmentally safe marine transportation and oil facility operations.

More in Opinion

Peter Zuyus
What about Alaska’s seniors in the 2022 governor race?

When 130,000 seniors speak, candidates will listen.

This image available under the Creative Commons license shows the outline of the state of Alaska filled with the pattern of the state flag.
Opinion: Bringing broadband to all Alaskans

Too many Alaskans face barriers accessing the internet.

This photo shows a stack of pocket constitutions at the Alaska State Capitol. (Peter Segall / Juneau Empire File)
Opinion: Join us in voting against a constitutional convention

Voting no on a constitutional convention is vital to the well-being and stability of our state.

Michael O’Meara.
Point of View: Tell BOEM how you feel

It seems like BOEM should prioritize input from people most likely to be affected if leases are sold

The State of Alaska, Department of Administration, Office of Information Technology webpage. (Screenshot/oit.alaska.gov)
Cloud migration now underway will strengthen, enhance State IT systems

At the most basic level, cloud computing is the delivery of computing services remotely

A resident casts their vote in the regular municipal election Tuesday, Oct. 6, 2020, at the Kenai Peninsula Fairgrounds in Ninilchik, Alaska. (Photo by Megan Pacer/Homer News)
Voices of the Peninsula: This is our borough and city

By Therese Lewandowski Another election already? Yes! This is our local elections… Continue reading

Jessica Cook, left, and Les Gara stand in The Peninsula Clarion’s offices on Thursday, June 30, 2022, in Kenai, Alaska. (Ashlyn O’Hara/Peninsula Clarion)
Alaska Voices: Better schools for a better economy

We need leaders who care about our children’s futures

The Alaska Permanent Fund Corporation building is seen in Juneau, Alaska, in March 2022. (Michael S. Lockett / Juneau Empire)
Opinion: APFC keeps steady keel during turbulent year

FY2022 was a challenging year for all investors

Homer Foundation
Point of View: Nonprofits provide essential services not provided by cities

By our count, nonprofits provide more than 100 jobs to our communities

t
Opinion: Don’t get scammed like I nearly did

I should have just turned off the computer.

Kenai Peninsula Borough Mayor Charlie Pierce campaigns for governor as he walks in the 65th annual Soldotna Progress Days Parade on Saturday, July 23, 2022 in Soldotna, Alaska. Pierce resigned as borough mayor effective Sept. 30, 2022, to focus on his gubernatorial campaign. (Ashlyn O’Hara/Peninsula Clarion)
Voices of the Peninsula: ‘It has been an honor to serve’

Borough mayor gives send-off ahead of departure