Wednesday, September 26, 2018

Proposal to Privatize Exxon Valdez Oil Spill Trustee Council

The Exxon Valdez Oil Spill Trustee Council has received a proposal urging that after nearly three decades of efforts to restore environment damaged by a massive oil spill in Prince William Sound that the council switch from government to private non-profit status.

Establishing an EVOS Restoration Foundation would remove conflict of interest issues of government agencies funding themselves, says marine conservationist Rick Steiner of Oasis Earth, an environmental consulting entity in Anchorage, Alaska. Steiner was a marine conservation professor with the University of Alaska stationed in Cordova at the time of the spill.

The move to a private non-profit is necessary to refocus primarily on restoring the injured environment, Steiner said in a letter to the council this past week. He acknowledges some notable successes, such as the habitat protection program, but says agencies tend to look at the EVOS process in terms of what they consider may be in their immediate self-interest, rather than how to best assist environmental recovery.

Steiner also notes that all six of the council’s trustees have full time government jobs and simply can’t focus on EVOC restoration with the effort it demands.

The current trustees including Alaska Commissioner of Fish and Game Sam Cotten, Alaska Commissioner of Environmental Conservation Larry Hartig, Alaska Attorney General Jahna Lindemuth, NOAA Regional administrator for Alaska Jim Balsiger, Chugach National Forest Supervisor Terri Marceron, and Steve Wackowski, senior advisor for Alaska Affairs to Interior Secretary Ryan Zinke.

Elise Hsieh, executive director of the council, acknowledged that the council had received Steiner’s proposal, but did not say when it might be considered by the council, whose next meeting is set for Oct. 17 in Anchorage.

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