Indigenous Peoples and Human Rights

August 31, 2012

Alaska Natives ban and oppose chemical dispersants in oil spills

Alaska Tribal and Indigenous Groups Ban and Oppose Use of Chemical Dispersants in Oil Spills

Beluga whales
By Alaska’s Big Village Network Center for Water Advocacy
Posted at Censored News

ANCHORAGE -- "Alaska Inter-Tribal Council is calling out to all local, public authorities, Tribal governments, and indigenous nations to ban and oppose the use of chemical dispersants in oil spill contingency planning and response to toxic oil spills in all waters of Alaska,” says Delice Calcote, Executive Director of Alaska Inter-Tribal Council  (AITC).

"Food security and customary and traditional subsistence values are central to the Tribes of Alaska. The mission of Alaska Inter-Tribal Council is to protect, promote and enhance customary and traditional subsistence resources for the future generations.”

"Cook Inlet Marine Mammal Council is opposed to adding any additional toxins ( chemical dispersant substances) on top of already toxic oil spills anywhere in Cook Inlet,  says Jess Lanman, Chairman of the Cook Inlet Marine Mammal Council.

“The federal and state governments need to protect our valuable fisheries and ban the use of chemical dispersants  in oil spill contingency plans everywhere.  We are already concerned about the accumulations of more toxins to the critical habitat of endangered Cook Inlet Beluga Whales with recent increases in oil and gas activities that adversely impacts our traditional hunters and fisherman."

Walt Parker, former chairman of the Alaska Oil Spill Commission says, "The main problem with oil spill response and the contingency plans is massive under-spending by industry, federal and state governments on research to ensure effective removal of oil spills in Arctic and ocean environments.”  The Alaska Oil Spill Commission was formed from the State of Alaska to investigate the wreck of the 1989 Exxon Valdez Oil Spill in Prince William Sound.

"We have been working on the chemical dispersants matter for many years prior to the Gulf of Mexico oil spill tragedy,” says Rosemary Ahtuangaruak, Tribal Liaison for Alaska Wilderness League, former Tribal leader and Arctic health care provider.

“Adding toxic chemical dispersants to a chemical (oil) spill should not be allowed, especially where we harvest foods for our families and friends."

"Center for Water Advocacy's main concern is that while the State of Alaska consistently parades Alaska contingency planning regulation as some of the strongest in the nation, it not only usually fails to uphold them, but , for years, has been attempting to, quietly weaken the contingency planning regulation mostly through administrative processes,” says Harold Shepherd ,CWA Board President. “This includes the use of chemical dispersants rather than relief wells or other more effective spill prevention and clean-up measures. Tribal Communities have good reason for environmental justice and human health concerns from the impacts chemical dispersants to subsistence life ways."

 “Alaska’s Big Village Network supports a ban on chemical dispersants, period!” says   Carl Wassilie, Biologist with Alaska’s Big Village Network.  “There are major gaps in science and knowledge in the use of chemical dispersants in response to an oil spill.   Adding chemical dispersants does NOT clean up spilled oil because the amount of oil spilled remains the same. Oil is just dispersed from the surface of the water to the water column, and can settle in the bottom of the ocean or drift into currents that may carry the oil droplets larger distances.  How does this impact the plankton and filter feeders such as Bowhead whales?  The industry, federal government and state governments have all failed to address to long-term toxic impacts to the human health and environment with use of chemical dispersants.  For example, what are the long-term impacts to the bio-productivity of multiple marine organisms that provide significant economic, cultural and aesthetic uses for Alaskans?  These questions of long-term effects are further exuberated in sea ice conditions of Cook Inlet, the Bering Sea, Chukchi Sea and Beaufort Seas.”

Carl Wassilie 907-382-3403 Nikos Pastos 907-764-2561
Alaska’s Big Village Network Center for Water Advocacy


Alaska groups join challenge of EPA oil dispersant rules
Alaska Dispatch | Aug 08, 2012

Inupiat Community of the Arctic Slope Resolution 2011 - 06 Opposing Dispersant use in the Arctic

Shell’s Inadequate Oil Spill Response Plans Threaten America’s Arctic
Tuesday, July 10, 2012    EarthJustice Lawsuit

U.S. Government Accountability Office:  Additional Research Needed, Particularly on Subsurface and Arctic Applications
GAO-12-585, May 30, 2012

August 26, 2011,
Impact of Gulf Spill’s Underwater Dispersants Is Examined

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