Exxon Valdez oil spill

Exxon Valdez oil spill

Overview
The Exxon Valdez oil spill occurred in Prince William Sound, Alaska, on March 24, 1989, when the Exxon Valdez
Exxon Valdez
Oriental Nicety, formerly Exxon Valdez, Exxon Mediterranean, SeaRiver Mediterranean, S/R Mediterranean, Mediterranean, and Dong Fang Ocean is an oil tanker that gained notoriety after running aground in Prince William Sound spilling hundreds of thousands of barrels of crude oil in Alaska...

, an oil tanker
Oil tanker
An oil tanker, also known as a petroleum tanker, is a merchant ship designed for the bulk transport of oil. There are two basic types of oil tankers: the crude tanker and the product tanker. Crude tankers move large quantities of unrefined crude oil from its point of extraction to refineries...

 bound for Long Beach
Long Beach, California
Long Beach is a city situated in Los Angeles County in Southern California, on the Pacific coast of the United States. The city is the 36th-largest city in the nation and the seventh-largest in California. As of 2010, its population was 462,257...

, California, struck Prince William Sound
Prince William Sound
Prince William Sound is a sound off the Gulf of Alaska on the south coast of the U.S. state of Alaska. It is located on the east side of the Kenai Peninsula. Its largest port is Valdez, at the southern terminus of the Trans-Alaska Pipeline System...

's Bligh Reef
Bligh Reef
Bligh Reef, sometimes known as Bligh Island Reef, is a reef off the coast of Bligh Island in Prince William Sound, Alaska. This was the location of the 1989 Exxon Valdez oil spill. After the incident, US Code 33 § 2733 mandated the operation of an automated navigation light to prevent future...

 and spilled
Oil spill
An oil spill is the release of a liquid petroleum hydrocarbon into the environment, especially marine areas, due to human activity, and is a form of pollution. The term is mostly used to describe marine oil spills, where oil is released into the ocean or coastal waters...

 260000 to 750000 bbl (41,336.7 to 119,240.5 m3) of crude oil. It is considered to be one of the most devastating human-caused environmental disaster
Environmental disaster
An environmental disaster is a disaster to the natural environment due to human activity. It should not be confused with the separate concept of a natural disaster.-History:...

s. The
Valdez spill was the largest ever in U.S. waters until the 2010 Deepwater Horizon
Deepwater Horizon oil spill
The Deepwater Horizon oil spill is an oil spill in the Gulf of Mexico which flowed unabated for three months in 2010, and continues to leak fresh oil. It is the largest accidental marine oil spill in the history of the petroleum industry...

 oil spill
Oil spill
An oil spill is the release of a liquid petroleum hydrocarbon into the environment, especially marine areas, due to human activity, and is a form of pollution. The term is mostly used to describe marine oil spills, where oil is released into the ocean or coastal waters...

, in terms of volume released.
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The Exxon Valdez oil spill occurred in Prince William Sound, Alaska, on March 24, 1989, when the Exxon Valdez
Exxon Valdez
Oriental Nicety, formerly Exxon Valdez, Exxon Mediterranean, SeaRiver Mediterranean, S/R Mediterranean, Mediterranean, and Dong Fang Ocean is an oil tanker that gained notoriety after running aground in Prince William Sound spilling hundreds of thousands of barrels of crude oil in Alaska...

, an oil tanker
Oil tanker
An oil tanker, also known as a petroleum tanker, is a merchant ship designed for the bulk transport of oil. There are two basic types of oil tankers: the crude tanker and the product tanker. Crude tankers move large quantities of unrefined crude oil from its point of extraction to refineries...

 bound for Long Beach
Long Beach, California
Long Beach is a city situated in Los Angeles County in Southern California, on the Pacific coast of the United States. The city is the 36th-largest city in the nation and the seventh-largest in California. As of 2010, its population was 462,257...

, California, struck Prince William Sound
Prince William Sound
Prince William Sound is a sound off the Gulf of Alaska on the south coast of the U.S. state of Alaska. It is located on the east side of the Kenai Peninsula. Its largest port is Valdez, at the southern terminus of the Trans-Alaska Pipeline System...

's Bligh Reef
Bligh Reef
Bligh Reef, sometimes known as Bligh Island Reef, is a reef off the coast of Bligh Island in Prince William Sound, Alaska. This was the location of the 1989 Exxon Valdez oil spill. After the incident, US Code 33 § 2733 mandated the operation of an automated navigation light to prevent future...

 and spilled
Oil spill
An oil spill is the release of a liquid petroleum hydrocarbon into the environment, especially marine areas, due to human activity, and is a form of pollution. The term is mostly used to describe marine oil spills, where oil is released into the ocean or coastal waters...

 260000 to 750000 bbl (41,336.7 to 119,240.5 m3) of crude oil. It is considered to be one of the most devastating human-caused environmental disaster
Environmental disaster
An environmental disaster is a disaster to the natural environment due to human activity. It should not be confused with the separate concept of a natural disaster.-History:...

s. The
Valdez spill was the largest ever in U.S. waters until the 2010 Deepwater Horizon
Deepwater Horizon oil spill
The Deepwater Horizon oil spill is an oil spill in the Gulf of Mexico which flowed unabated for three months in 2010, and continues to leak fresh oil. It is the largest accidental marine oil spill in the history of the petroleum industry...

 oil spill
Oil spill
An oil spill is the release of a liquid petroleum hydrocarbon into the environment, especially marine areas, due to human activity, and is a form of pollution. The term is mostly used to describe marine oil spills, where oil is released into the ocean or coastal waters...

, in terms of volume released. However, Prince William Sound's remote location, accessible only by helicopter, plane, and boat, made government and industry response efforts difficult and severely taxed existing plans for response. The region is a habitat
Habitat
* Habitat , a place where a species lives and grows*Human habitat, a place where humans live, work or play** Space habitat, a space station intended as a permanent settlement...

 for salmon
Salmon
Salmon is the common name for several species of fish in the family Salmonidae. Several other fish in the same family are called trout; the difference is often said to be that salmon migrate and trout are resident, but this distinction does not strictly hold true...

, sea otter
Sea Otter
The sea otter is a marine mammal native to the coasts of the northern and eastern North Pacific Ocean. Adult sea otters typically weigh between 14 and 45 kg , making them the heaviest members of the weasel family, but among the smallest marine mammals...

s, seals
Pinniped
Pinnipeds or fin-footed mammals are a widely distributed and diverse group of semiaquatic marine mammals comprising the families Odobenidae , Otariidae , and Phocidae .-Overview: Pinnipeds are typically sleek-bodied and barrel-shaped...

 and seabird
Seabird
Seabirds are birds that have adapted to life within the marine environment. While seabirds vary greatly in lifestyle, behaviour and physiology, they often exhibit striking convergent evolution, as the same environmental problems and feeding niches have resulted in similar adaptations...

s. The oil, originally extracted at the Prudhoe Bay oil field
Prudhoe Bay oil field
Prudhoe Bay Oil Field is a large oil field on Alaska's North Slope. It is the largest oil field in both the United States and in North America, covering and originally containing approximately of oil.. BP. August 2006...

, eventually covered 1300 miles (2,092.1 km) of coastline, and 11000 square miles (28,489.9 km²) of ocean. Then Exxon CEO, Lawrence G. Rawl
Lawrence G. Rawl
Lawrence G. Rawl was the Chairman and CEO of Exxon from 1985 to 1993.Rawl was born in New Jersey in 1928. Toward the end of World War II, he enlisted and served in the U.S...

, shaped the company's response.


According to official reports, the ship was carrying approximately 55 million USgals (208,197.7 m³) of oil, of which about 11 to 32 US gal (41,639.5 to 0.121133184 m3) were spilled into the Prince William Sound. A figure of 11 million USgals (41,639.5 m³) was a commonly accepted estimate of the spill's volume and has been used by the State of Alaska's Exxon Valdez Oil Spill Trustee Council, the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration
National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration
The National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration , pronounced , like "noah", is a scientific agency within the United States Department of Commerce focused on the conditions of the oceans and the atmosphere...

 and environmental groups such as Greenpeace
Greenpeace
Greenpeace is a non-governmental environmental organization with offices in over forty countries and with an international coordinating body in Amsterdam, The Netherlands...

 and the Sierra Club
Sierra Club
The Sierra Club is the oldest, largest, and most influential grassroots environmental organization in the United States. It was founded on May 28, 1892, in San Francisco, California, by the conservationist and preservationist John Muir, who became its first president...

. Some groups, such as Defenders of Wildlife
Defenders of Wildlife
Defenders of Wildlife is a United States-based, 501 non-profit organization founded in 1947, "dedicated to the protection of all native animals and plants in their natural communities." The organization is active in political interventions and lobbying aimed at protection of wildlife, and...

, dispute the official estimates, maintaining that the volume of the spill has been underreported. Alternative calculations, based on an assumption that the sea water rather than oil was drained from the damaged tanks, estimate the total to have been 25 to 32 US gal (94,635.3 to 0.121133184 m3).

Identified causes


Multiple factors have been identified as contributing to the incident:
  • Exxon Shipping Company failed to supervise the master and provide a rested and sufficient crew for Exxon Valdez. The NTSB
    National Transportation Safety Board
    The National Transportation Safety Board is an independent U.S. government investigative agency responsible for civil transportation accident investigation. In this role, the NTSB investigates and reports on aviation accidents and incidents, certain types of highway crashes, ship and marine...

     found this wmomomomoas widespread throughout the industry, prompting a safety recommendation to Exxon and to the industry.
  • The third mate failed to properly maneuver the vessel, possibly due to fatigue or excessive workload.
  • Exxon Shipping Company failed to properly maintain the Raytheon
    Raytheon
    Raytheon Company is a major American defense contractor and industrial corporation with core manufacturing concentrations in weapons and military and commercial electronics. It was previously involved in corporate and special-mission aircraft until early 2007...

     Collision Avoidance System (RAYCAS) radar
    Radar
    Radar is an object-detection system which uses radio waves to determine the range, altitude, direction, or speed of objects. It can be used to detect aircraft, ships, spacecraft, guided missiles, motor vehicles, weather formations, and terrain. The radar dish or antenna transmits pulses of radio...

    , which, if functional, would have indicated to the third mate an impending collision with the Bligh
    Bligh
    Bligh may refer to:* William Bligh, a Vice-Admiral in the British Royal Navy famous for being Captain of HMS Bounty during a mutiny and Governor of New South Wales during the first military coup in Australia...

     reef by detecting the "radar reflector", placed on the next rock inland from Bligh Reef for the purpose of keeping boats on course via radar.


The captain was confirmed to be asleep when the ship crashed in Prince William Sound's reef.
In light of the above and other findings, investigative reporter Greg Palast
Greg Palast
Gregory Allyn Palast is a New York Times-bestselling author and a freelance journalist for the British Broadcasting Corporation as well as the British newspaper The Observer. His work frequently focuses on corporate malfeasance but has also been known to work with labor unions and consumer...

 stated in 2008 "Forget the drunken skipper fable. As to Captain Joe Hazelwood, he was below decks, sleeping off his bender. At the helm, the third mate never would have collided with Bligh Reef had he looked at his RAYCAS radar. But the radar was not turned on. In fact, the tanker's radar was left broken and disabled for more than a year before the disaster, and Exxon management knew it. By the way, this page is not all true. It was [in Exxon's view] just too expensive to fix and operate."

Exxon blamed Captain Hazelwood for the grounding of the tanker.

Other factors, according to an M.I.T.
Massachusetts Institute of Technology
The Massachusetts Institute of Technology is a private research university located in Cambridge, Massachusetts. MIT has five schools and one college, containing a total of 32 academic departments, with a strong emphasis on scientific and technological education and research.Founded in 1861 in...

 course entitled "Software System Safety" by Professor Nancy G. Leveson, included:
  1. Tanker crews were not told that the previous practice of the Coast Guard tracking ships out to Bligh reef had ceased.
  2. The oil industry promised, but never installed, state-of-the-art iceberg monitoring equipment.
  3. Exxon Valdez was sailing outside the normal sea lane to avoid small icebergs thought to be in the area.


  1. The 1989 tanker crew was half the size of the 1977 crew, worked 12−14 hour shifts, plus overtime. The crew was rushing to leave Valdez with a load of oil.
  2. Coast Guard tanker inspections in Valdez were not done, and the number of staff was reduced.
  3. Lack of available equipment and personnel hampered the spill cleanup.

Cleanup measures and environmental
There was use of a dispersant
Dispersant
A dispersant or a dispersing agent or a plasticizer or a superplasticizer is either a non-surface active polymer or a surface-active substance added to a suspension, usually a colloid, to improve the separation of particles and to prevent settling or clumping...

, a surfactant
Surfactant
Surfactants are compounds that lower the surface tension of a liquid, the interfacial tension between two liquids, or that between a liquid and a solid...

 and solvent
Solvent
A solvent is a liquid, solid, or gas that dissolves another solid, liquid, or gaseous solute, resulting in a solution that is soluble in a certain volume of solvent at a specified temperature...

 mixture. A private company applied dispersant on March 24 with a helicopter and dispersant bucket. Because there was not enough wave action to mix the dispersant with the oil in the water, the use of the dispersant was discontinued. One trial explosion was also conducted during the early stages of the spill to burn the oil, in a region of the spill isolated from the rest by another explosion. The test was relatively successful, reducing 113,400 liters of oil to 1,134 litres of removable residue, but because of unfavorable weather no additional burning was attempted. The dispersant Corexit 9580 was tried as part of the cleanup. Corexit has been found to be toxic to cleanup workers and wildlife while breaking down oil.

Mechanical cleanup was started shortly afterwards using booms and skimmers, but the skimmers were not readily available during the first 24 hours following the spill, and thick oil and kelp
Kelp
Kelps are large seaweeds belonging to the brown algae in the order Laminariales. There are about 30 different genera....

 tended to clog the equipment.

Exxon was widely criticized for its slow response to cleaning up the disaster and John Devens, the mayor of Valdez
Valdez, Alaska
Valdez is a city in Valdez-Cordova Census Area in the U.S. state of Alaska. According to 2005 Census Bureau estimates, the population of the city is 4,020. The city is one of the most important ports in Alaska. The port of Valdez was named in 1790 after the Spanish naval officer Antonio Valdés y...

, has said his community felt betrayed by Exxon's inadequate response to the crisis. More than 11,000 Alaska residents, along with some Exxon employees, worked throughout the region to try to restore the environment.
Because Prince William Sound contained many rocky coves where the oil collected, the decision was made to displace it with high-pressure hot water. However, this also displaced and destroyed the microbial populations on the shoreline; many of these organisms (e.g. plankton
Plankton
Plankton are any drifting organisms that inhabit the pelagic zone of oceans, seas, or bodies of fresh water. That is, plankton are defined by their ecological niche rather than phylogenetic or taxonomic classification...

) are the basis of the coastal marine food chain, and others (e.g. certain bacteria
Bacteria
Bacteria are a large domain of prokaryotic microorganisms. Typically a few micrometres in length, bacteria have a wide range of shapes, ranging from spheres to rods and spirals...

 and fungi) are capable of facilitating the biodegradation
Biodegradation
Biodegradation or biotic degradation or biotic decomposition is the chemical dissolution of materials by bacteria or other biological means...

 of oil. At the time, both scientific advice and public pressure was to clean everything, but since then, a much greater understanding of natural
Bioremediation
Bioremediation is the use of microorganism metabolism to remove pollutants. Technologies can be generally classified as in situ or ex situ. In situ bioremediation involves treating the contaminated material at the site, while ex situ involves the removal of the contaminated material to be treated...

 and facilitated remediation processes has developed, due somewhat in part to the opportunity presented for study by the Exxon Valdez spill. Despite the extensive cleanup attempts, less than ten percent of the oil was recovered and a study conducted by NOAA determined that as of early 2007 more than 26000 U.S.gal of oil remain in the sandy soil of the contaminated shoreline, declining at a rate of less than 4% per year.

In 1992, Exxon released a video titled Scientists and the Alaska Oil Spill. It was provided to schools with the label "A Video for Students".

Both the long-term and short-term effects of the oil spill have been studied. Immediate effects included the deaths of, at the best estimates, 100,000 to as many as 250,000 seabirds, at least 2,800 sea otter
Sea Otter
The sea otter is a marine mammal native to the coasts of the northern and eastern North Pacific Ocean. Adult sea otters typically weigh between 14 and 45 kg , making them the heaviest members of the weasel family, but among the smallest marine mammals...

s, approximately 12 river otters, 300 harbor seals, 247 Bald Eagle
Bald Eagle
The Bald Eagle is a bird of prey found in North America. It is the national bird and symbol of the United States of America. This sea eagle has two known sub-species and forms a species pair with the White-tailed Eagle...

s, and 22 orcas, as well as the destruction of billions of salmon and herring eggs. The effects of the spill continued to be felt for many years afterwards. Overall reductions in population were seen in various ocean animals, including stunted growth in pink salmon populations. The effect on salmon and other prey populations in turn adversely affected killer whales in Prince William Sound and Alaska's Kenai Fjords region. Eleven members (about half) of one resident pod disappeared in the following year. By 2009, scientists estimated the AT1 transient population (considered part of a larger population of 346 transients), numbered only 7 individuals and had not reproduced since the spill, this population is expected to die out. Sea otters and ducks also showed higher death rates in following years, partially because they ingested prey from contaminated soil and from ingestion of oil residues on hair due to grooming.

Some twenty years after the spill, a team from the University of North Carolina
University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill
The University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill is a public research university located in Chapel Hill, North Carolina, United States...

 found that the effects were lasting far longer than expected. The team estimates some shoreline Arctic habitats may take up to thirty years to recover. Exxon Mobil denies any concerns over this, stating that they anticipated a remaining fraction that they assert will not cause any long-term ecological impacts, according to the conclusions of 350 peer-reviewed studies. However, a NOAA study concluded that this contamination can produce chronic low-level exposure, discourage subsistence where the contamination is heavy, and decrease the "wilderness character" of the area.
Litigation and cleanup costs


In the case of Baker v. Exxon
Exxon Shipping Co. v. Baker
Exxon Shipping Co. v. Baker, 554 U.S. 471 , was a case decided by the Supreme Court of the United States. The Court ruled in a 5-3 decision that the punitive damages awarded to the victims of the Exxon Valdez oil spill should be reduced from US$2.5 billion to US$500 million.The case was appealed...

, an Anchorage
Anchorage, Alaska
Anchorage is a unified home rule municipality in the southcentral part of the U.S. state of Alaska. It is the northernmost major city in the United States...

 jury awarded $287 million for actual damages and $5 billion for punitive damages
Punitive damages
Punitive damages or exemplary damages are damages intended to reform or deter the defendant and others from engaging in conduct similar to that which formed the basis of the lawsuit...

. The punitive damages amount was equal to a single year's profit
Profit (accounting)
In accounting, profit can be considered to be the difference between the purchase price and the costs of bringing to market whatever it is that is accounted as an enterprise in terms of the component costs of delivered goods and/or services and any operating or other expenses.-Definition:There are...

 by Exxon at that time. To protect itself in case the judgment was affirmed, Exxon obtained a $4.8 billion credit line from J.P. Morgan & Co.  J.P. Morgan created the first modern credit default swap
Credit default swap
A credit default swap is similar to a traditional insurance policy, in as much as it obliges the seller of the CDS to compensate the buyer in the event of loan default...

 in 1994, so that Morgan's would not have to hold as much money in reserve (8% of the loan under Basel I
Basel I
Basel I is the round of deliberations by central bankers from around the world, and in 1988, the Basel Committee in Basel, Switzerland, published a set of minimal capital requirements for banks. This is also known as the 1988 Basel Accord, and was enforced by law in the Group of Ten countries...

) against the risk of Exxon's default.

Meanwhile, Exxon appealed the ruling, and the 9th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals
United States Court of Appeals for the Ninth Circuit
The United States Court of Appeals for the Ninth Circuit is a U.S. federal court with appellate jurisdiction over the district courts in the following districts:* District of Alaska* District of Arizona...

 ordered the original judge, Russel Holland, to reduce the punitive damages. On December 6, 2002, the judge announced that he had reduced the damages to $4 billion, which he concluded was justified by the facts of the case and was not grossly excessive. Exxon appealed again and the case returned to court to be considered in light of a recent Supreme Court
Supreme Court of the United States
The Supreme Court of the United States is the highest court in the United States. It has ultimate appellate jurisdiction over all state and federal courts, and original jurisdiction over a small range of cases...

 ruling in a similar case, which caused Judge Holland to increase the punitive damages to $4.5 billion, plus interest.

After more appeals, and oral arguments heard by the 9th Circuit Court of Appeals on January 27, 2006, the damages award was cut to $2.5 billion on December 22, 2006. The court cited recent Supreme Court rulings relative to limits on punitive damages.

Exxon appealed again. On May 23, 2007, the 9th Circuit Court of Appeals denied ExxonMobil's request for a third hearing and let stand its ruling that Exxon owes $2.5 billion in punitive damages. Exxon then appealed to the Supreme Court, which agreed to hear the case. On February 27, 2008, the Supreme Court heard oral arguments for 90 minutes. Justice
Associate Justice of the Supreme Court of the United States
Associate Justices of the Supreme Court of the United States are the members of the Supreme Court of the United States other than the Chief Justice of the United States...

 Samuel Alito
Samuel Alito
Samuel Anthony Alito, Jr. is an Associate Justice of the U.S. Supreme Court. He was nominated by President George W. Bush and has served on the court since January 31, 2006....

, who at the time, owned between $100,000 and $250,000 in Exxon stock, recused himself from the case. In a decision issued June 25, 2008, Justice David Souter
David Souter
David Hackett Souter is a former Associate Justice of the Supreme Court of the United States. He served from 1990 until his retirement on June 29, 2009. Appointed by President George H. W. Bush to fill the seat vacated by William J...

 issued the judgment of the court, vacating the $2.5 billion award and remanding the case back to a lower court, finding that the damages were excessive with respect to maritime common law
Admiralty law
Admiralty law is a distinct body of law which governs maritime questions and offenses. It is a body of both domestic law governing maritime activities, and private international law governing the relationships between private entities which operate vessels on the oceans...

. Exxon's actions were deemed "worse than negligent but less than malicious." The judgment limits punitive damages to the compensatory damages, which for this case were calculated as $507.5 million. The basis for limiting punitive damages to no more than twice the actual damages has no precedent to support it. Some lawmakers, such as Senate Judiciary Committee Chairman Patrick J. Leahy, have decried the ruling as "another in a line of cases where this Supreme Court has misconstrued congressional intent to benefit large corporations."

Exxon's official position is that punitive damages greater than $25 million are not justified because the spill resulted from an accident, and because Exxon spent an estimated $2 billion cleaning up the spill and a further $1 billion to settle related civil and criminal charges. Attorneys for the plaintiffs contended that Exxon bore responsibility for the accident because the company "put a drunk in charge of a tanker in Prince William Sound."

Exxon recovered a significant portion of clean-up and legal expenses through insurance claims associated with the grounding of the Exxon Valdez. Also, in 1991, Exxon made a quiet, separate financial settlement of damages with a group of seafood producers known as the Seattle Seven
Seattle Seven
The Seattle Seven is a group of seven seafood companies, operating in the city of Seattle, known for negotiating a secret agreement with Exxon Corporation in 1991, relating to punitive damages resulting from the Exxon Valdez oil spill...

 for the disaster's effect on the Alaskan seafood industry. The agreement granted $63.75 million to the Seattle Seven, but stipulated that the seafood companies would have to repay almost all of any punitive damages awarded in other civil proceedings. The $5 billion in punitive damages was awarded later, and the Seattle Seven's share could have been as high as $750 million if the damages award had held. Other plaintiffs have objected to this secret arrangement, and when it came to light, Judge Holland ruled that Exxon should have told the jury at the start that an agreement had already been made, so the jury would know exactly how much Exxon would have to pay.

Coast Guard report


A report by the US National Response Team summarized the event and made a number of recommendations, such as changes to the work patterns of Exxon crew in order to address the causes of the accident.

Oil Pollution Act of 1990


In response to the spill, the United States Congress passed the Oil Pollution Act of 1990
Oil Pollution Act of 1990
The Oil Pollution Act was passed by the 101st United States Congress, and signed by President George H. W. Bush, to mitigate and prevent civil liability for future oil spills off the coast of the United States....

 (OPA). The legislation included a clause that prohibits any vessel that, after March 22, 1989, has caused an oil spill of more than 1 million USgals (3,785.4 m³) in any marine area, from operating in Prince William Sound.

In April 1998, the company argued in a legal action against the Federal government that the ship should be allowed back into Alaskan waters. Exxon claimed OPA was effectively a bill of attainder
Bill of attainder
A bill of attainder is an act of a legislature declaring a person or group of persons guilty of some crime and punishing them without benefit of a judicial trial.-English law:...

, a regulation that was unfairly directed at Exxon alone. In 2002, the 9th Circuit Court of Appeals ruled against Exxon. As of 2002, OPA had prevented 18 ships from entering Prince William Sound.

OPA also set a schedule for the gradual phase in of a double hull
Double hull
A double hull is a ship hull design and construction method invented by Leonardo da Vinci where the bottom and sides of the ship have two complete layers of watertight hull surface: one outer layer forming the normal hull of the ship, and a second inner hull which is some distance inboard,...

 design, providing an additional layer between the oil tanks and the ocean. While a double hull would likely not have prevented the Valdez disaster, a Coast Guard study estimated that it would have cut the amount of oil spilled by 60 percent.

The Exxon Valdez
Exxon Valdez
Oriental Nicety, formerly Exxon Valdez, Exxon Mediterranean, SeaRiver Mediterranean, S/R Mediterranean, Mediterranean, and Dong Fang Ocean is an oil tanker that gained notoriety after running aground in Prince William Sound spilling hundreds of thousands of barrels of crude oil in Alaska...

supertanker was towed to San Diego
San Diego, California
San Diego is the eighth-largest city in the United States and second-largest city in California. The city is located on the coast of the Pacific Ocean in Southern California, immediately adjacent to the Mexican border. The birthplace of California, San Diego is known for its mild year-round...

, arriving on July 10. Repairs began on July 30. Approximately 1600 short tons (1,451.5 t) of steel were removed and replaced. In June 1990 the tanker, renamed S/R Mediterranean, left harbor after $30 million of repairs. It was still sailing as of January 2010, registered in Panama
Panama
Panama , officially the Republic of Panama , is the southernmost country of Central America. Situated on the isthmus connecting North and South America, it is bordered by Costa Rica to the northwest, Colombia to the southeast, the Caribbean Sea to the north and the Pacific Ocean to the south. The...

. The vessel is currently owned by a Hong Kong company, who operates it under the name Oriental Nicety.

In 2009, Exxon Valdez Captain Joseph Hazelwood offered a "heartfelt apology" to the people of Alaska, suggesting he had been wrongly blamed for the disaster: "The true story is out there for anybody who wants to look at the facts, but that's not the sexy story and that's not the easy story," he said. Yet Hazelwood said he felt Alaskans always gave him a fair shake.

Alaska regulations


In the aftermath of the spill, Alaska governor Steve Cowper
Steve Cowper
Steve Cowper is an American Democratic politician who was the sixth Governor of Alaska of Alaska from 1986 to 1990. He graduated from the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill and later served in the Alaska House of Representatives before being elected governor.Cowper served as Governor at...

 issued an executive order requiring two tugboats to escort every loaded tanker from Valdez out through Prince William Sound to Hinchinbrook Entrance. As the plan evolved in the 1990s, one of the two routine tugboats was replaced with a 210-foot (64 m) Escort Response Vehicle (ERV). The majority of tankers at Valdez are no longer single-hulled, Congress has enacted legislation requiring all tankers to be double-hulled
Double hull
A double hull is a ship hull design and construction method invented by Leonardo da Vinci where the bottom and sides of the ship have two complete layers of watertight hull surface: one outer layer forming the normal hull of the ship, and a second inner hull which is some distance inboard,...

 by 2015.

Opposition to oil drilling


The Oil, Chemical and Atomic Workers International Union, representing approximately 40,000 US workers, announced opposition to drilling in the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge
Arctic National Wildlife Refuge
The Arctic National Wildlife Refuge is a national wildlife refuge in northeastern Alaska, United States. It consists of in the Alaska North Slope region. It is the largest National Wildlife Refuge in the country, slightly larger than the Yukon Delta National Wildlife Refuge...

 (ANWR) until Congress enacted a comprehensive national energy policy.
Economic and personal impact
In 1991, following the collapse of the local marine population (particularly clams, herring, and seals) the Chugach Alaska Corporation
Chugach Alaska Corporation
Chugach Alaska Corporation, or CAC, is one of thirteen Alaska Native Regional Corporations created under the Alaska Native Claims Settlement Act of 1971 in settlement of aboriginal land claims. Chugach Alaska Corporation was incorporated in Alaska on June 23, 1972...

, an Alaska Native Corporation
Alaska Native Regional Corporations
The Alaska Native Regional Corporations were established in 1971 when the United States Congress passed the Alaska Native Claims Settlement Act which settled land and financial claims made by the Alaska Natives and provided for the establishment of 13 regional corporations to administer those...

, filed for Chapter 11 bankruptcy protection
Chapter 11, Title 11, United States Code
Chapter 11 is a chapter of the United States Bankruptcy Code, which permits reorganization under the bankruptcy laws of the United States. Chapter 11 bankruptcy is available to every business, whether organized as a corporation or sole proprietorship, and to individuals, although it is most...

. It has since recovered.

According to several studies funded by the state of Alaska, the spill had both short-term and long-term economic effects. These included the loss of recreational sports, fisheries, reduced tourism, and an estimate of what economists call "existence value
Existence value
Existence values are an unusual and somewhat controversial class of economic value, reflecting the benefit people receive from knowing that a particular environmental resource, such as Antarctica, the Grand Canyon, endangered species, or any other organism or thing exists.Existence value is a...

", which is the value to the public of a pristine Prince William Sound.

The economy of the city of Cordova
Cordova, Alaska
As of the census of 2000, there were 2,454 people, 958 households, and 597 families residing in the city. The population density was 40.0 per square mile . There are 1,099 housing units at an average density of 17.9 per square mile...

, Alaska was adversely affected after the spill damaged stocks of salmon
Salmon
Salmon is the common name for several species of fish in the family Salmonidae. Several other fish in the same family are called trout; the difference is often said to be that salmon migrate and trout are resident, but this distinction does not strictly hold true...

 and herring
Herring
Herring is an oily fish of the genus Clupea, found in the shallow, temperate waters of the North Pacific and the North Atlantic oceans, including the Baltic Sea. Three species of Clupea are recognized. The main taxa, the Atlantic herring and the Pacific herring may each be divided into subspecies...

 in the area. Several residents, including one former mayor, committed suicide after the spill.
See also

  • List of oil spills
  • Deepwater Horizon oil spill
    Deepwater Horizon oil spill
    The Deepwater Horizon oil spill is an oil spill in the Gulf of Mexico which flowed unabated for three months in 2010, and continues to leak fresh oil. It is the largest accidental marine oil spill in the history of the petroleum industry...

  • Ixtoc I oil spill
  • Dead Ahead: The Exxon Valdez Disaster
    Dead Ahead: The Exxon Valdez Disaster
    Dead Ahead: The Exxon Valdez Disaster is a 1992 movie depicting the Exxon Valdez oil spill disaster off the coast of Alaska starring Christopher Lloyd, John Heard, Rip Torn and Michael Murphy.-Synopsis:...

    ,
    1992 HBO movie

External links