For more than twenty years, owners or operators of oil and gas related vessels and facilities that pose a serious threat to the environment have been required by the federal Oil Pollution Act to prepare their own facility response plans. This requirement led to the creation of Oil Spill Response Organizations, or OSROs, a small yet vital part of the Alaska oil and gas industry.
"Because of Alaska's geographic size and lack of infrastructure in remote areas of the state, the cost to meet full OPA 90 [Oil Pollution Act] compliance grew to an unreasonable amount," explains Matt Melton, general manager, Alaska Chadux Corporation. "One analysis estimated the expense at $100 million.
"When the tanker and tank barge owners realized the cost for compliance and what that would mean to the people who live in remote areas of Alaska, a few of them got together and worked with the US Coast Guard to create an Alternative Planning Criteria [APC]," he continues. "To manage this plan for western Alaska, the Alaska Chadux Corporation was formed."
Alaska Chadux Corporation, along with Alaska Clean Seas and CISPRI (Cook Inlet Spill Prevention and Response, Inc.) are member-funded, not-for-profit organizations established to provide oil spill prevention and response for their member organizations, which include companies that explore, produce, or transport oil. "Our mission of being ready to protect Alaska's environment in a safe, efficient, and cost-effective manner helps keep costs low to our members," says Melton. "With the cost of compliance so high, we help to take the burden off.
"If these companies had to pay for full compliance, it would greatly affect the price to the consumer in remote Alaska," he adds. "You hear about the high cost of fuel in these remote areas now; if it wasn't for the APC and a nonprofit like Alaska Chadux keeping the costs down, the increase in price to the end user would be considerable."
Prevention and Training
When an oil spill happens, it needs to be contained as quickly as possible, which requires well-trained responders. To this end, Alaska OSROs provide a lot of training, both to their members and to those working in the field. Alaska Clean Seas, for example, which serves the North Slope and the first 167 miles of the trans-Alaska oil pipeline, provides Arctic-oriented spill response training to its member companies, contractors, village response teams, and government agencies. In 2012, Alaska Clean Seas provided more than 648 classes on topics including in-situ burning, broken and solid ice response, wildlife protection, incident management, and safety and health response issues.
"Member companies may sign a mutual aid agreement...