Alaska Alliance

           


November 2013

IMPORTANT—NOTIFICATION TO ALL TRIBAL GOVERNMENTS & RESIDENTS

IN ALASKA & COASTAL UNITED STATES REGIONS

RE: FEDERAL GOVERNMENT PLANS FOR PRE-AUTHORIZING TOXIC CHEMICAL DISPERSANTS

FOR OIL AND OTHER HAZARDOUS SPILL RESPONSE IN ALASKAN WATERS—

UNDERMINING TRIBAL GOVERNMENT AUTHORITY AND YOUR BASIC HUMAN RIGHT TO CLEAN WATER

 The Alaska Regional Response Team (ARRT) consisting of Environmental Protection Agency, Coast Guard and other federal and state agency officials have excluded Tribal Natural Resource Trustees from spill counter measure planning processes.  These same agency representatives in Alaska are working to ram through a plan giving the Coast Guard pre-authorization power to use toxic chemical dispersants in the event of an oil spill along every major coastline in Alaska bypassing objections of Tribal Governments.  See http://alaskarrt.org/Documents.aspx?f=12371 for ARRT documents and letter to Tribal Leaders. 

PRESS RELEASE AND RECOMMENDED STEPS TO TAKE:              

EPA/Coast Guard Planned Meetings re Chemical Dispersant Use Being ‘Safe’, Outrages Alaskan Residents and Tribal Governments

Alaska Change Oil Spill Response Alliance condemns planned federal agency-sponsored community meetings being held this week as a deceptive attempt to gain public support for ‘poisoning Alaskan waters’ and a move to erode the power of the Clean Water Act. 

Anchorage, Alaska November 12-17, 2013__The Alaska Regional Response Team (ARRT), a federal inter-agency body tasked with formulating response plans to oil and hazardous substance discharges in Alaska, are holding public meetings in five hub Alaskan regions this week to present their revised oil spill response plans. The first meeting, scheduled in King Salmon, Alaska on Wednesday, November 13th will present information on plans that give pre-authorization for the spraying and injection of the same controversial chemical dispersants as were used on the 1989 Exxon Valdez and 2010 Gulf of Mexico British Petroleum (BP) Oil Spills to be used in Alaskan waters.

The Alaska Inter-Tribal Council and the Change Oil Spill Response Global Alliance-Alaska Delegation, say Tribal Nations, fisherman and concerned citizens vehemently oppose the plan because it erodes the regulatory power of the Clean Water Act.  In a widely distributed Public Notification to Tribal Governments and Alaskan citizens, they explain that U.S. policies and laws mandating government to government consultation with Tribal Nations on such plans are being undermined and short circuited by the ARRT.

The ARRT’s ‘questionable Tribal Consultation process’, planned to begin on Nov 13th, “is a misuse of public funds to force through approval of the Coast Guard’s dispersant use plans setting a dangerous precedent for inappropriate government to government consultation with Federally Recognized Tribes” said Walter Parker, an Arctic expert with 40 years experience in oil & gas oversight.  “Chemical Dispersant use in oil spill response should be retired globally as obsolete, and is especially inappropriate for Alaska, since the method is ineffective in frigid waters” he continued.

I. See attached documents for details:

II.  See ARRT website for meeting call in information and other details at: http://alaskarrt.org/Documents.aspx?f=12371

WHAT TO DO:

PLEASE CALL IN TO OR ATTEND THESE GOVERNMENT-SPONSORED MEETINGS AND HELP TRIBAL GOVERNMENTS AND THE PUBLIC GET ANSWERS TO THE FOLLOWING QUESTIONS:

Any proposal for the use of chemical dispersants requires that the following questions be addressed by the inter-agency ARRT presenting their dispersant plans for discussion:

  1. Of greatest importance in oil spill response is rapid reduction of oil toxicity and its impact on ecosystems and threat to human health. Dispersants do not remove oil or reduce toxicity of the oil but increase it, how does the revised plan address this?
  2. Based on 2012 DOI testing and other science we have reviewed, dispersants are not effective in frigid waters below a certain temperature.  How does your plan overcome that?
  3. How will dispersants applied by aerial and/or other application methods not impact marine life, coastal and up-river communities?
  4. Since dispersants do not remove oil and its most toxic compounds but instead sink and disperse them into the water column increasing absorption capacity and ingestion by marine life, how is this addressed in the plan?
  5. How will chemical dispersants not impact Customary and Traditional and Modern Life-ways of hunting, fishing, gathering ability to navigate and access clean water?
  6. What non-toxic alternatives can be used to replace chemical dispersants invented by and/or owned by the major oil companies? (LAEO’s research has found technology that does indeed exist to truly detoxify and swiftly clean up an oil spill, and that technology is being successfully used in many parts of the world today.)
  7. How does the use of chemical dispersants comply with the Clean Water Act?  (see: http://protectmarinelifenow.org/revitalization)

(Note: See also study/position paper at: www.protectmarinelifenow.org which is based on multiple scientific studies cited indicating unquestionable food chain, ecosystem and human health impacts of dispersants.)      If any proposed chemical dispersant guidelines do not meet the criteria at: http://protectmarinelifenow.org/identification for selecting products for oil spill cleanup, they should not be approved.

STATEMENTS FROM SCIENTISTS AND PROFESSIONALS

Our waters, fish, peoples, wildlife, and productivity of subsistence resources are threatened by imminent oil spills in harsh Arctic conditions; the government pre-authorizing toxic chemical dispersants adds to the toxicity in the water column after an accidental release of hazardous oil , and the intentional use of chemical dispersant substances is a malicious action threatening to harm subsistence use of the environment for future generations.” Carl Wassilie, Yupiaq Biologist with Alaska’s Big Village Network.

 “Committing to clean up oil spills after they happen is insufficient. Precaution and nation to nation Tribal Government Consultation and free, prior, informed consent must be enacted before hasty implementation of a policy of pre-authorizing toxic chemical dispersant substances in oil spill contingency planning. Why have less toxic bioremediation methods with a 20-year track record of effectiveness been ignored by the Alaska inter-agency Regional Response Team? Prevention of the potential of oil pollution in the Arctic marine environment is crucial for Tribal Governments in Alaska and throughout the Arctic. The Nuuk Declaration established a task force to develop, and I’m quoting: “an international instrument on Arctic marine oil pollution preparedness and response…”The Senior Arctic Officials and Permanent Participants of the Arctic Council have discussed this at length. We are aware of the prospect of a blow out or major tanker accident. “Chief Michael Stickman of Nulato–International Chair of the Arctic Athabascan Council

“Federal pre-authorization of toxic chemical dispersants coupled with the State of Alaska’s legally questionable water right permitting process could only be seen as a bold attack on the rights of citizens and Tribes to protect inherent sovereign pre-existing and human  water rights throughout Alaska.” – Hal Shepherd Executive Director Center for Water Advocacy

“Altitude, vegetation, good climate and rich soils have combined to contribute to the development of subsistence livelihood as the most vibrant sector of the economy and the sector from which most of the Alaskan population derives their sustenance, nourishment and means of support for their families and communities.There is no need or purpose for pre-authorizing the use of toxic chemicals where we harvest our foods!” – Emily Murray Norton Bay Inter-Tribal Watershed Council 

 “Pre-Authorizing Chemical Dispersants in oil spill contingency planning anywhere within Alaska is unconstitutional and legally questionable.  Our Tribal indigenous rights in Alaska to fish are protected like in no other State Constitution.  The first consideration for the waters of the lakes, the rivers and oceans are to be reserved to protect and promote healthy fisheries, forever. Fisheries and wildlife are considered to be of esthetic, ecological. Educational, historical, recreational, scientific value to the Nation and its peoples, and our peoples have rights of first in time and first in line to the resources we use and hold with spiritual, cultural and historical value.” Alaska Inter-Tribal Council: Delice Calcote, Executive Director

“There are dozens of scientific papers showing that chemical dispersants are ineffective at remediating oil spills and are more destructive than the oil itself.  We believe the source of the problem has been the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA), Coast Guard and other agencies who have issued ‘misguidance’ in their materials published for oil spill response clean up professionals.   Our investigation uncovered that these agencies as regulators take the advice of ExxonMobil’s and other major oil company’s hired Scientists when formulating their training and guidance materials.  Inaccurate guidance on the subject of chemical dispersants has crept into the materials which has been perpetuated and enforced throughout the industry. These faulty guidelines and ineffective remedies for spill problems have resulted in industry officials with a 25-year addiction to chemical dispersants used in our oceans and who mistakenly think that these are the best tools for managing environmental damage and profit loss from oil spill fines.                                       

“’Spill it, boom it, skim it, sink it, disperse it, and hide it’ is a mantra that recurs throughout most oil spill incidents. We advocate for an entirely new approach to oil spill problems associated with drilling, transport, pipelines and storage mishaps and have published a paper entitled: A Call for a Twenty-First-Century SOLUTION in Oil Spill Response. Written and compiled by the Science and Technology Board of the Lawrence Anthony Earth Organization (LAEO), the analysis not only brings to light the dangerous flaws associated with current oil spill cleanup methods, but outlines technology that will not only save marine life, oceans, animals and people, but also save millions of dollars in damages and cleanup costs to oil companies and local economies impacted by spills. 

“We intend for this publication to correct the EPA’s inaccurate guidance documents that have been barriers to effective clean up—and we believe, that even the oil companies will welcome it.”  Diane Wagenbrenner, VP Special Project Operations, Lawrence Anthony Earth Organization, and Change Oil Spill Response Global Alliance Coordinator.

—–

May 2013–The Alaska Regional Response Team (ARRT), consisting of federal and state agency officials responsible for protecting and safeguarding Alaskan lands and waters, is ready to give the green light to chemical dispersant preauthorization plans that were  presented at their May 22 meeting in Valdez, Alaska.

Fearing the ARRT’s dispersant plan approval, Alaskan groups and tribes led by the Alaska Inter-Tribal Council (AITC) have begun enacting statewide, legally binding tribal resolutions opposing the use of chemical dispersant substances in oil spill contingency planning throughout Alaska. With more than 200 indigenous tribes living in remote wilderness, many without grocery stores, and, who have no direct representation at the ARRT table, a decision to apply chemical dispersants to mitigate oil spills has untenable trade-offs impacting their fisheries and polluting their food and water sources.

While this tribal feud with federal agencies has been going on for years, the AITC  has joined forces with the Lawrence Anthony Earth Organization. This coalition is a newly-formed regional partnership for Alaska and part of LAEO’s Change Oil Spill Response (COSR) Global Alliance initiative.

The AITC coalition of Alaskan tribal representatives and groups now formed as the Change Oil Spill Response Global Alliance Delegation prepared documentation and scientific studies supporting the complete elimination of chemical dispersants in Alaskan spill response. They have delivered  18 Tribal Council resolutions currently in hand to the committee co-chairs: Mr. Mark Everett, U.S. Coast Guard, and Chris Field, EPA Coordinator. 

Chief Michael Stickman of Nulato, International Chair of the Arctic Athabascan Council and a leading member of a newly established Arctic Council Task Force working to substantially improve procedures for combating oil spills in the Arctic, endorsed the Alliance formation stating: “Committing to clean up oil spills after they happen is insufficient. Precaution and nation-to-nation Tribal Government Consultation and free, prior, informed consent must be enacted before hasty implementation of a policy of pre-authorizing toxic chemical dispersants substances in oil spill contingency planning. Why have less toxic bioremediation methods with a 20-year track record of effectiveness been ignored by the Alaska inter-agency Regional Response Team?”

Consolidated Alaskan Tribes have a straightforward demand — they require clean water and healthy fisheries, which are critical to their survival as people living in an arctic environment. Tribes have treaty rights as sovereign nations and have considerable authority over what affects their ability to hunt, fish and sustain their lifestyles as Native Americans.

LAEO’s Science and Technology Advisory Board released a 44-page position paper last month outlining an entirely new approach to oil spill problems associated with drilling, transport, pipelines, and storage mishaps, entitled  A Call for a Twenty-First-Century SOLUTION in Oil Spill Response. 

The Alaska Inter-Tribal Council requested LAEO’s assistance and are now using their materials to educate tribal governments and communities on the chemical dispersant issue throughout Alaska. Many tribes are in remote locations, not connected to broadband and have little to no representation for protecting fishing, hunting, gathering and bartering interests. Tribes and Coastal communities are disproportionately impacted by federal, and state decision makers who gift to outside multi-national corporations large entitlements and easy access to Alaska’s waters, land, air and salmon streams often ignoring pre-existing rights of indigenous Alaskans and other citizens.

Read and Download Documentation from the Alaska Alliance.

 

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