"An Act exempting certain natural gas exploration and production facilities from oil discharge prevention and contingency plans and proof of financial responsibility, and amending the powers and duties of the Alaska Oil and Gas Conservation Commission with respect to those plans; and providing for an effective date. "
House Bill 197 clarifies the Department of Environmental Conservation's (DEC) authority to exempt gas exploration wells and production facilities from oil discharge prevention and contingency plans ("C-Plans"). The legislation also removes the industry's burden of financial responsibility required of wells that do not pose an oil spill threat.
HB 197 fixes the unintended consequences of last year's HB 531. That legislation, in part, limited previous exemptions for gas exploration and production facilities for all shallow natural gas facilities to a narrow exemption for "non conventional gas wells." The problem HB 197 seeks to correct relates to the new definition of "non conventional gas," which HB 531 defined as "coal bed methane, gas contained in shales or gas hydrates."
Benefits of HB 197l include permitting DEC to focus its resources on the review of C-Plans and proof of financial responsibility for those gas exploration facilities that could potentially incur an oil spill. It also gives DEC authority to conduct inspections the Legislature directed when it changed the contingency plan review renewal requirement from three to five years. In addition, the bill relieves industry from unnecessary financial costs associated with preparing and implementing oil spill contingency plans for gas exploration facilities where no threat of an oil release spill exists. Lastly, HB 197 relieves industry from the costs involving demonstrating proof of financial responsibility in response to oil spills at gas exploration facilities, where no threat of spills exist.