The Coast Guard Reauthorization Act that was signed in December includes a provision that increases support for oil spill research in Alaskan waters. The provision provides funds to the PWS Oil Spill Recovery Institute (OSRI) for support of oil spill-related research, education, and technology development projects. OSRI was created by the Oil Pollution Act of 1990 as a funding organization that supports research to improve our understanding of and capability to respond to oil spills in Alaska’s marine waters. According to research program manager Dr. Scott Pegau, “Recent OSRI-driven advances include testing methods to detect oil beneath ice, investigating how freshwater affects oil spill trajectories, and development of education activities that lead kids to build their own underwater remotely operated vehicles.”
OSRI’s funding comes from the interest on a portion of the National Oil Spill Liability Trust Fund. In recent years, declining interest rates and inflation have reduced OSRI’s ability to drive research and technology development. The Coast Guard bill increases the principal that supports OSRI from $22.5 million to just over $35 million. This will bring OSRI’s interest received to nearly a million dollars a year and restore funding to past levels. “The work that OSRI funds is relevant to Alaska, the nation, and the international community; this provision will increase our impact at all those levels,” says Executive Director Katrina Hoffman.