Gulf spill may take cleanup gear from Alaska

Posted: Tuesday, June 22, 2010

ANCHORAGE - The Prince William Sound Regional Citizen's Advisory Council is warning the Coast Guard against pulling too many resources out of Alaska to fight the Gulf oil spill.

In a letter Friday, Executive Director Mark Swanson said the amount of spill response equipment should not fall below state limits.

The Anchorage Daily News reports that's enough people, boats and tools to collect 300,000 barrels of oil in 72 hours.

"It would be a tragic irony if the failure to prepare for an effective response in the Gulf of Mexico resulted in a drawdown of resources in Alaska to the extent that the oil industry became unable to mount an effective response in Prince William Sound," Swanson wrote.

The Coast Guard has called for a national inventory of boats, booms and other equipment that could be sent to the Gulf of Mexico.

No decision has been made about how much equipment could be moved from Alaska or other parts of the country to help combat the Gulf spill. Coast Guard Lt. Mickey Sanders, who is working on the effort in Alaska, says it wouldn't jeopardize Alaska's requirements.

The Coast Guard has been collecting information on equipment from oil spill response companies such as Alaska Clean Seas, a not-for-profit cooperative of oil companies including BP and Conoco Phillips.

The state Department of Environmental Conservation is keeping an eye on the process.

"We're hoping we'll be able to work with the Coast Guard in a very deliberate way to keep sending the resources to the Gulf without having to compromise our spill response planning standards here," Commissioner Larry Hartig said.

Already, some Alaska equipment and workers have headed to the Gulf, including skimmers, thousands of feet of boom and roughly 85,000 gallons of dispersant, according to the department.

Twenty-one years ago, help arrived from all over to battle the Exxon Valdez oil spill, said Stan Stephens a Valdez tour operator who sits on the council.

"And so you have to ask: Where's the dividing line here? How much oil spill response equipment do we allow to leave this area in order to help out, because we have a responsibility to go down there and help as much as we can," he said.

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