[Marxism] Exxon Valdez Oil Spill 20 Years Later
tcod at hotmail.com
Thu Mar 26 22:21:43 MDT 2009
[below is a local Alaskan retrospective on the Exxon Valdez oil spill, an event I was personally involved in as a local resident, fisherman and clean up worker. Presently I remain one of thousands of class members in the lawsuit against Exxon but have only received around $900. of the hundreds of millions awarded in damages. I am working on writing something up about my experiences with this historical episode. I was in Kodiak when it it happened and got involved in organizing Kodiak Crewmens Association to represent our interests. In previous years I had worked in Cordova and Valdez itself. needless to say organized political groups from the radical left played no role in this, except for some of us who had a previous background therein.]
VALDEZ, Alaska -- Tankers had come and gone from the Valdez oil terminal for 12 years, including more than 8,700 trips without a serious accident. But then came the infamous voyage of the Exxon-Valdez.
It was the pride of the fleet and Exxon's newest tanker that ran aground on Bligh Reef shortly after 12 a.m. on Good Friday in 1989.
Eight of the ship's 11 cargo holds were ripped open, and nearly 11 million gallons of North Slope crude oil spilled into the pristine waters of Prince William Sound. It was the beginning America's worst environmental disaster.
"You got to see it for yourself to really get the feel for what's happened to the beaches around here," said one oil spill clean up worker back in '89. "And it makes me angry, because it was totally preventable." With the oil spill response system totally inadequate and overwhelmed, the oil drifted through the sound. It eventually traveled 460 miles from the shipwreck, and 1,300 miles of shoreline were polluted.
"It's dead, everything is dead," said another clean up worker. "It's three feet deep. Did you know that?"
The black tide took a heavy toll on the sound's wildlife. "We haven't seen one live animal in this whole cove," said an animal rescue worker shortly after the spill. The carcasses of more than 35,000 birds, and 1,000 sea otters were found after the spill. But since most of the bodies of the dead animals sank, many believe this was only a small fraction of the actual death toll.
The spill touched off a wave of anger among local fishermen. "I want to know why Exxon and the rest of these are so adamant about not hiring local people to equip their boats that are ready to go out and save their own fisheries," said a fisherman during a 1989 Exxon hearing.
Exxon said it spent more than $2 billion to clean up the spill. "It's a well-meaning effort, but we're never going to get Prince William Sound cleaned up," said a clean up worker. And now, 20 years later, Exxon-Valdez oil can still be found along the sound's rocky beaches, as the debate continues about its effects on the environment.
"The sea otters are not back at the levels they were in the west side of the sound, as well as some of the seabird population, and ducks," said Nancy Bird with the Prince William Sound Science Center. The spill touched off a two-decade-long legal battle between spill victims and Exxon.
"They dumped the oil right in my back yard right where I live, and I feel even what they've paid me so far is not enough," said a local man affected by the spill. "But in terms of dollars, they'll never be able to pay me for what they did -- never." The company paid $300 million to Alaskans and businesses, and $1 billion in settlements to the state and federal governments.
Nearly 32,000 spill victims wanted Exxon to pay punitive damages, but last year the U.S. Supreme Court handed them a bitter disappointment. The justices reduced a $2.5 billion punitive damages judgment against the company to $500 million. "The average payment per individual will be about $3,000, but many will receive nothing," said attorney Lloyd Miller.
A lot has changed since the spill. An arsenal of spill response equipment is now on standby in Prince William Sound. "I sleep better having been involved in the effort 20 years ago," said Bruce Painter with Ship Escort/Response Vessel System. "I sleep much better with what we have in place now."
High-powered tugs now escort loaded tankers through the sound. "It really changed everyone's mindset around what could happen in the sound if we don't pay attention," said SERVS Director Mike Meadors.
The spill made protectors of Prince William Sound determined to keep it from happening again.
"I think it enlightened a lot of people," said Valdez fisherman Pat Day. "I think a lot of people who just took it for granted became more involved, and their emotion became deeper because they saw it hurt." But even though there is wide agreement that the precautions put into effect after the Exxon -Valdez
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