ANCHORAGE (AP) — The Alaska Department of Environmental Conservation has closed a public comment period concerning possible revisions to the state's oil spill prevention and response regulations.
Most members of the public urged conservation department officials to maintain the current levels of protections in the regulations, The Alaska Journal of Commerce reported Wednesday.
Many questioned why the department would open the regulations to possible changes given the state's reliance on marine resources and the lack of large fuel or oil spills in the state since the Exxon Valdez spilled 257,000 barrels of oil when the tanker ran aground in Prince William Sound in March 1989.
The agency received comments from businesses, trade groups, community organizations, and residents during the 153-day comment period that ended March 16.
Jason Brune, commissioner of the Department of Environmental Conservation, last fall said there was no plan to do away with oil spill prevention and response plans. But he said the department wanted to make sure the rules are not outdated.
In an email to The Associated Press Wednesday, Brune said the comment period initially was scheduled to end in mid-January but was held open until mid-March at the request of interested parties. He said comments were shared online in the interests of having an open process.
"It is not our intent to roll back environmental protections and if the Department determines that there are changes to be made to the regulations, those will go through a fully transparent public process later this year that will include additional opportunity for the public to provide comment," Brune said.
Local government officials emphasized a general desire for the department to uphold current levels of oil and gas industry oversight while suggesting some changes to clarify and strengthen existing regulatory code.
City and tribal councils and assemblies from Cordova, Homer, Kodiak, Valdez, the Kenai Peninsula Borough, and Kotzebue submitted resolutions against actions to ease the regulations.
Oil and gas producers did not offer comments. Businesses in subsets of the industry such as fuel shippers, oilfield service companies and Alyeska Pipeline Service Co. offered comments about the regulations being too rigid, unclear or outdated.