The U.S. Congress continues to work on establishing clear and consistent oil spill response standards for Western Alaska. While the concept of Alternative Planning Criteria (APC) was initially welcomed as a better fit for Alaska, in reality, the process for establishing APC in Alaska lacks uniform standards, which results in arbitrary and inconsistent application of what acceptable APCs are. This creates confusion and disparity of oil spill response capabilities available to planholders. This lack of standards has demonstrated APCs are subject to frequent and unpredictable changes due to the subjective nature of what is required for an acceptable APC at any given time. This uncertainty creates an environment where industry rates and requirements could (and have) changed quickly due to the capricious requirements from frequent differences in interpretation by the regulatory agency.
The Don Young Coast Guard Authorization Act (H.R. 6865) would establish a rules-based system tailored for oil spill response in Alaska. The legislation establishes a clear, consistent, and uniform set of rules to guide a process that reflects the uniqueness of Alaska and the importance of natural resources in the State. If passed, the legislation would ensure a set of standards that is at least as strong as what exists in the Lower 48, provide predictability for industry, help stabilize fair and reasonable rates, and prevent a large spill from ruining the environment, destroying Alaska’s multibillion-dollar fishing industry, and impeding maritime commerce in the region. We will keep you advised as the U.S. Congress completes this important initiative by year's end.