Monday, March 24, 2014

A somber anniversary for Alaskans

Twenty-five years ago today, on March 24th, 1989, the Exxon Valdez ran aground in Prince William Sound, Alaska, spilling between one-quarter and three-quarters of a million barrels of oil into the pristine waters and, in due course, onto the hitherto unspoiled coastline.

It was the worst tanker oil spill disaster in US history, surpassed in extent only by the Deepwater Horizon catastrophe of 2010 in the Gulf of Mexico.  Alaskans are still bitter about Exxon's response, even those living far from Prince William Sound.  They've never forgotten nor forgiven.

Pray God it never happens again.



Snoggeramus said...

Let's not forget the footage of men trying to hose the oil off the rocks .... with water.

B said...

The interesting thing about the cleanup is that the beaches that *weren't* cleaned with detergents, hot water and steam have recovered faster (and farther)than the "cleaned" beaches.

Jim22 said...

I was in Alaska when this happened. I remember well what transpired. There is blame enough to go around. Of course the Exxon Valdez' skipper has his share as does the crew but one thing that is not well known is the role that the Alaska DEC played.

When the tanker went aground the shipping company and the oil companies endeavored to contain the spill. The DEC (Department of Environmental Conservation) officer on site prevented them from doing so. For three days. Then a gale blew up and all possibility of containment disappeared.

I know the name of the DEC officer but will not post it here.

The dithering by the DEC caused the environmental damage to be much worse that it should have been. The DEC officer was never held accountable.

Paul, Dammit! said...

There was a world of difference between the press/popular story of Capt. Hazelwood's actions vs. the investigation by the NTSB and Coast Guard.

The captain never had a chance. Exxon threw him directly under the bus, because they had to minimize the impact of giving him a first-voyager fresh out of college for a 3rd mate (the kid who actually caused the accident).

Little things you don't hear about in the press/Exxon version is that the captain was never accused of being drunk by investigators or given an opportunity to take a breathalyzer exam at the time of the accident. He noted in the deposition that he had had several drinks a number of hours before sailing- the timeline and number of drinks was borne out by the bartender and waitstaff at the bar he was at. He blew a .061 10 hours after the accident, which was later determined to be a recording error. He was never charged with drunkenness by an investigator, and was exonerated at trial based on testimony of witnesses after an ex-post-facto accusation of drunkenness several days after the accident. He was found guilty of negligent discharge of oil, and had his license suspended for 9 months, which was the Coast Guard's sop to the press noise.

A more telling result of all this was the captain's punishment, which was negligible. He was given community serivice and a prestigious teaching job at the US merchant marine academy, where he just recently retired.

Ever since then, in the required 'media relations' course which must be taken by applicants for an unlimited tonnage master's license, the standard rule after an accident is to have a PR spokesman on hand, and figure out who's going under the bus, because rule 1 of oil in the water is that someone's got to pay with their job, even if they weren't awake or on the boat.