A Homer based conservation group released a report addressing measures it believes are necessary to prevent oil and gas blowouts of the type that occurred in the Gulf of Mexico last summer and other impacts to the economy and marine environment of Cook Inlet. The Kachemak Bay Conservation Society of Homer, released a 17 page White Paper today arguing that Alaska state regulations make plain that spill prevention contingency plans for oil and gas drilling platforms in Cook Inlet must cover all aspects of such spill prevention and containment. According to the group, with the increasing development of oil and gas resources in northern Cook Inlet (as illustrated by the recent arrival of a jack-up rig owned by the Escopeta Oil Company a couple of weeks ago), federal and state governmental agencies and the oil and gas industry have a responsibility to insure that such development is safe and takes place with minimal impact to the environment.
Specifically, the group claims that state law and blow out prevention practicalities clearly call for the drilling of relief wells immediately after, or at the same time, as the original well as part of the Best Available Technology (BAT) standard. According to the Conservation Society, however, Alaska state agencies including the Department of Environmental Conservation with the support of the oil and gas industry have diluted the BAT standards and created confusion regarding the use of relief wells. Water policy consultant and the author of the White Paper Hal Shepherd states “One the one hand ADEC claims that relief wells should be applied to prevent and control blowouts only as a “last resort” while, at the same time, if you look deeper into their reports and other documentation, you can see the implication that relief wells are, often, the only means of “practically” controlling blowouts, especially for off shore platforms.
In addition, according to the group federal and state governmental agencies should use updated economic, technologic, scientific, data and Traditional Ecological Knowledge to evaluate whether “Zero Discharge” of produced water and other wastes from oil and gas drilling in Cook Inlet is warranted. According to the Conservation Society, this would bring offshore oil platforms in the Inlet in line with the goal of the federal Clean Water Act, to eliminate the discharge of pollutants into navigable waters, which is being adhered to by almost every state, except Alaska.
Conservation Society President Roberta Highland, says that the group is concerned that, the state of Alaska is on course for making the same mistakes that led to the Deep Water Horizon oil spill in the Gulf of Mexico. Highland says: “It is really alarming, after what lead up to the environmental and economic disaster in the Gulf that the primary blowout and toxic contamination prevention strategy in Alaska is the belief that the circumstances for such an event are unlikely.”
KBCS Oil and Gas Project is sponsored by a generous grant from the Alaska Conservation Foundation.