Exxon Valdez oil spill

The Exxon Valdez oil spill occurred in Prince William Sound, Alaska, March 24, 1989, when Exxon Valdez, an oil tanker owned by Exxon Shipping Company, bound for Long Beach, California, struck Prince William Sound's Bligh Reef, 1.5 miles west of Tatitlek, Alaska at 12:04 am[1][2] local time and spilled 10.8 million US gallons (260,000 bbl)(or a mass of 35,000 metric tonnes) of crude oil over the next few days.[3] It is considered to be one of the most devastating human-caused environmental disasters.[4] The Valdez spill is the second largest in US waters, after the 2010 Deepwater Horizon oil spill, in terms of volume released.[5] Prince William Sound's remote location, accessible only by helicopter, plane, or boat, made government and industry response efforts difficult and severely taxed existing response plans. The region is a habitat for salmon, sea otters, seals and seabirds. The oil, originally extracted at the Prudhoe Bay oil field, eventually impacted 1,300 miles (2,100 km) of coastline, of which 200 miles (320 km) were heavily or moderately oiled with an obvious impact.[3][6][7]

Exxon Valdez oil spill
Exval.jpeg
Three days after Exxon Valdez ran aground
LocationPrince William Sound, Alaska
Coordinates60°50′27″N 146°51′45″W / 60.8408°N 146.8625°WCoordinates: 60°50′27″N 146°51′45″W / 60.8408°N 146.8625°W
DateMarch 24, 1989
Cause
CauseGrounding of the Exxon Valdez oil tanker
OperatorExxon Shipping Company
Spill characteristics
Volume10.8×106 US gal (260,000 bbl; 41,000 m3)(or a mass of 35,000 metric tonnes)
Area11,000 sq mi (28,000 km2)
Shoreline impacted1,300 mi (2,100 km)

The spill

According to official reports, the ship was carrying 53,094,510 gallons (1,264,155 barrels) of oil, of which about 10.8 million US gallons (260,000 bbl; 41,000 m3) were spilled into the Prince William Sound.[3][1][8] An approximate figure of 11 million US gallons (260,000 bbl; 42,000 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,[3] the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration and environmental groups such as Greenpeace and the Sierra Club.[5][9][10]

OilSheenFromValdezSpill
During the first few days of the spill, heavy sheens of oil covered large areas of the surface of Prince William Sound.

Multiple factors have been identified as contributing to the incident:

OilPoolFromValdezSpill.jpeg
Beginning three days after the vessel grounded, a storm pushed large quantities of fresh oil on to the rocky shores of many of the beaches in the Knight Island chain.[11] In this photograph, pooled black oil is shown stranded in the rocks
  • Exxon Shipping Company failed to supervise the master and provide a rested and sufficient crew for Exxon Valdez. The NTSB found this was widespread throughout the industry, prompting a safety recommendation to Exxon and to the industry.[12]
  • The third mate failed to properly maneuver the vessel, possibly due to fatigue or excessive workload.[12]
  • Exxon Shipping Company failed to properly maintain the Raytheon Collision Avoidance System (RAYCAS) radar, which, if functional, would have indicated to the third mate an impending collision with the Bligh Reef by detecting the "radar reflector", placed on the next rock inland from Bligh Reef for the purpose of keeping ships on course. This cause was brought forward by Greg Palast and is not present in the official accident report.[13]

Captain Joseph Hazelwood, who was widely reported to have been drinking heavily that night, was not at the controls when the ship struck the reef. Exxon blamed Captain Hazelwood for the grounding of the tanker, but Hazelwood accused the corporation of being made a scapegoat.[13][14] As the senior officer in command of the ship, he was accused of being intoxicated and thereby contributing to the disaster, but he was cleared of this charge at his 1990 trial after witnesses testified that he was sober around the time of the accident. In light of the other findings, investigative reporter Greg Palast 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. It was just too expensive to fix and operate."[15]

Other factors, according to an MIT course entitled "Software System Safety" by Professor Nancy G. Leveson,[16] included:

  1. Ships were not informed that the previous practice of the Coast Guard tracking ships out to Bligh Reef had ceased.[17]
  2. The oil industry promised, but never installed, state-of-the-art iceberg monitoring equipment.[18]
  3. Exxon Valdez was sailing outside the normal sea lane to avoid small icebergs thought to be in the area.[18]
  4. The 1989 tanker crew was half the size of the 1977 crew, worked 12- to 14-hour shifts, plus overtime. The crew was rushing to leave Valdez with a load of oil.[19]
  5. Coast Guard vessel inspections in Valdez were not performed, and the number of staff was reduced.[19]
  6. Lack of available equipment and personnel hampered the spill cleanup.[17]

This disaster resulted in International Maritime Organization introducing comprehensive marine pollution prevention rules (MARPOL) through various conventions. The rules were ratified by member countries and, under International Ship Management rules, the ships are being operated with a common objective of "safer ships and cleaner oceans".[20]

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. Hazelwood said he felt Alaskans always gave him a fair shake.[14]

Clean-up and environmental impact

OilCleanupAfterValdezSpill
Workers using high-pressure, hot-water washing to clean an oiled shoreline

Chemical dispersant, a surfactant and solvent mixture, was applied to the slick by a private company on March 24 with a helicopter. But the helicopter missed the target area. Scientific data on its toxicity were either thin or incomplete. In addition, public acceptance of a new, widespread chemical treatment was lacking. Landowners, fishing groups, and conservation organizations questioned the use of chemicals on hundreds of miles of shoreline when other alternatives may have been available."[21][22][22][23]

According to a report by David Kirby for TakePart, the main component of the Corexit formulation used during cleanup, 2-butoxyethanol, was identified as "one of the agents that caused liver, kidney, lung, nervous system, and blood disorders among cleanup crews in Alaska following the 1989 Exxon Valdez spill.[24]

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 tended to clog the equipment. Despite civilian insistence for a complete clean, only 10% of total oil was actually completely cleaned.[1] Exxon was widely criticized for its slow response to cleaning up the disaster and John Devens, the mayor of Valdez, has said his community felt betrayed by Exxon's inadequate response to the crisis.[25] More than 11,000 Alaska residents, along with some Exxon employees, worked throughout the region to try to restore the environment.

Exxon Valdez Cleanup
Clean-up efforts after the Exxon Valdez oil spill

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) are the basis of the coastal marine food chain, and others (e.g. certain bacteria and fungi) are capable of facilitating the biodegradation of oil. At the time, both scientific advice and public pressure was to clean everything, but since then, a much greater understanding of natural 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 26 thousand U.S. gallons (98 m3) of oil remain in the sandy soil of the contaminated shoreline, declining at a rate of less than 4% per year.[26][27]

EVOSWEB 013 oiled bird3
Wildlife was severely affected by the oil spill.

Both the long-term and short-term effects of the oil spill have been studied.[28] Immediate effects included the deaths of 100,000 to as many as 250,000 seabirds, at least 2,800 sea otters, approximately 12 river otters, 300 harbor seals, 247 bald eagles, and 22 orcas, and an unknown number of salmon and herring.[8][29]

In 2003, fourteen years after the spill, a team from the University of North Carolina found that the remaining oil was lasting far longer than anticipated, which in turn had resulted in more long-term loss of many species than had been expected. The researchers found that at only a few parts per billion, polycyclic aromatic hydrocarbons caused a long-term increase in mortality rates. They reported that "species as diverse as sea otters, harlequin ducks and killer whales suffered large, long-term losses and that oiled mussel beds and other tidal shoreline habitats will take an estimated 30 years to recover."[30]

In 2006, a study done by the National Marine Fisheries Service in Juneau found that about 6 miles (9.7 km) of shoreline around Prince William Sound was still affected by the spill, with 101.6 tonnes of oil remaining in the area. Exxon Mobil denied any concerns over any remaining oil, stating that they anticipated a remaining fraction that they assert will not cause any long-term ecological impacts, according to the conclusions of the studies they had done: "We've done 350 peer-reviewed studies of Prince William Sound, and those studies conclude that Prince William Sound has recovered, it's healthy and it's thriving."[31] However, in 2007 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.[27]

The effects of the spill continued to be felt for many years afterwards. As of 2010 there were an estimated 23,000 US gallons (87 m3) of Valdez crude oil still in Alaska's sand and soil, breaking down at a rate estimated at less than 4% per year.[32]

On March 24, 2014, the twenty-fifth anniversary of the spill, NOAA scientists reported that some species seem to have recovered, with the sea otter the latest creature to return to pre-spill numbers. Scientists who have monitored the spill area for the last 25 years report that concern remains for one of two pods of local orca whales, with fears that one pod may eventually die out.[33] Federal scientists estimate that between 16,000 and 21,000 US gallons (61 to 79 m3) of oil remains on beaches in Prince William Sound and up to 450 miles (725 km) away. Some of the oil does not appear to have biodegraded at all. A USGS scientist who analyses the remaining oil along the coastline states that it remains among rocks and between tide marks. "The oil mixes with seawater and forms an emulsion...Left out, the surface crusts over but the inside still has the consistency of mayonnaise – or mousse."[34] Alaska state senator Berta Gardner is urging Alaskan politicians to demand that the US government force ExxonMobil to pay the final $92 million (£57 million) still owed from the court settlement. The major part of the money would be spent to finish cleaning up oiled beaches and attempting to restore the crippled herring population.[34]

Litigation and cleanup costs

RaptorEducationGroupIncEagles
Eagles rescued from the oil spill

In the case of Exxon v. Baker, an Anchorage jury awarded $287 million for actual damages and $5 billion for punitive damages. To protect itself in case the judgment was affirmed, Exxon obtained a $4.8 billion credit line from J.P. Morgan & Co., who created the first modern credit default swap so that they would not have to hold as much money in reserve against the risk of Exxon's default.[35]

Meanwhile, Exxon appealed the ruling, and the 9th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals ordered the trial judge, Russel Holland, to reduce the punitive damages. On December 6, 2002, Holland 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 Holland to be reconsidered in light of a recent Supreme Court ruling in a similar case. Holland increased the punitive damages to $4.5 billion, plus interest.

After more appeals, in December 2006 the damages award was cut to $2.5 billion. The court of appeals cited recent Supreme Court rulings relative to limits on punitive damages.[36]

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 owed $2.5 billion in punitive damages. Exxon then appealed to the Supreme Court, which agreed to hear the case.[37] On February 27, 2008, the Supreme Court heard oral arguments. Justice Samuel Alito, who at the time, owned between $100,000 and $250,000 in Exxon stock, recused himself from the case.[38] In a decision issued June 25, 2008, written by Justice David Souter, the court vacated the $2.5 billion award and remanded the case back to the lower court, finding that the damages were excessive with respect to maritime common law. Exxon's actions were deemed "worse than negligent but less than malicious."[39] The punitive damages were further reduced to an amount of $507.5 million.[40] The Court's ruling was that maritime punitive damages should not exceed the compensatory damages,[40] supported by a precedent dating from 1818.[41] Senate Judiciary Committee Chairman Patrick J. Leahy has decried the ruling as "another in a line of cases where this Supreme Court has misconstrued congressional intent to benefit large corporations."[42]

Exxon's official position was that punitive damages greater than $25 million were 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."[43]

Exxon recovered a significant portion of clean-up and legal expenses through insurance claims associated with the grounding of the Exxon Valdez.[44][45] Also, in 1991, Exxon made a quiet, separate financial settlement of damages with a group of seafood producers known as the Seattle Seven 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,[46] 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.[47]

As of December 15, 2009, Exxon had paid the entire $507.5 million in punitive damages, including lawsuit costs, plus interest, which were further distributed to thousands of plaintiffs.[48]

In October 1989, Exxon filed suit against the State of Alaska, charging that the state had interfered with Exxon's attempts to clean up the spill by refusing to approve the use of dispersant chemicals until the night of the 26th. The state disputed the claim, stating that there was a long-standing agreement to allow the use of dispersants to clean up spills, thus Exxon did not require permission to use them, and that in fact Exxon had not had enough dispersant on hand to effectively handle a spill of the size created by the Valdez.[49] Exxon filed claims in October 1990 against the Coast Guard, asking to be reimbursed for cleanup costs and damages awarded to plaintiffs in any lawsuits filed by the State of Alaska or the federal government against Exxon. The company claimed that the Coast Guard was "wholly or partially responsible" for the spill, because they had granted mariners' licenses to the crew of the Valdez, and because they had given the Valdez permission to leave regular shipping lanes to avoid ice. They also reiterated the claim that the Coast Guard had delayed cleanup by refusing to give permission to immediately use chemical dispersants on the spill.[50]

Political consequences and reforms

The Oil Spill Recovery Institute was formed after United States Congress approved it to seek a solution. Collaborating with InnoCentive they found a partial solution for the flow of oil.[51]

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.[1]

Oil Pollution Act of 1990

In response to the spill, the United States Congress passed the Oil Pollution Act of 1990 (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 US gallons (3,800 m3) in any marine area, from operating in Prince William Sound.[52]

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, a regulation that was unfairly directed at Exxon alone.[53] In 2002, the 9th Circuit Court of Appeals ruled against Exxon. As of 2002, OPA had prevented 18 ships from entering Prince William Sound.[54]

OPA also set a schedule for the gradual phase in of a double hull 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.[55]

The Exxon Valdez supertanker was towed to San Diego, arriving on July 10. Repairs began on July 30. Approximately 1,600 short tons (1,500 t) of steel were removed and replaced. In June 1990 the tanker, renamed S/R Mediterranean, left harbor after $30 million of repairs.[54] It was still sailing as of January 2010, registered in Panama. The vessel was then owned by a Hong Kong company, who operated it under the name Oriental Nicety. In August 2012, it was beached at Alang, India and dismantled.

Alaska regulations

In the aftermath of the spill, Alaska governor Steve Cowper 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). Tankers at Valdez are no longer single-hulled. Congress enacted legislation requiring all tankers to be double-hulled as of 2015.[56]

Economic and personal impact

In 1991, following the collapse of the local marine population (particularly clams, herring and seals) the Chugach Alaska Corporation, an Alaska Native Corporation, filed for Chapter 11 bankruptcy protection. It has since recovered.[57]

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", which is the value to the public of a pristine Prince William Sound.[58][59][60][61]

The economy of the city of Cordova, Alaska was adversely affected after the spill damaged stocks of salmon and herring in the area.[62][63] The village of Chenega was transformed into an emergency base and media outlet.The local villagers had to cope with a tripling of their population from 80 to 250. When asked how they felt about the situation, a village councillor noted that they were too shocked and busy to be depressed; others emphasized the human costs of leaving children unattended while their parents worked to clean up.[64] Many Native Americans were worried that too much time was spent on the fishery and not enough on the land that supports subsidence hunting.

In 2010, a CNN report alleged that many oil spill cleanup workers involved in the Exxon Valdez response had subsequently become sick. Anchorage lawyer Dennis Mestas found that this was true of 6,722 of 11,000 worker files he was able to inspect. Access to the records was controlled by Exxon. Exxon responded in a statement to CNN:

After 20 years, there is no evidence suggesting that either cleanup workers or the residents of the communities affected by the Valdez spill have had any adverse health effects as a result of the spill or its cleanup.[65][66]

Reactions

In 1992, Exxon released a video titled Scientists and the Alaska Oil Spill, to be distributed to schools. Dr. Michael Fry called it a piece of "corporate propaganda".[67]

In December 1994, the Unabomber assassinated Burson-Marsteller executive Thomas Mosser, accusing him of having "helped Exxon clean up its public image after the Exxon Valdez incident". The PR company claimed not to have been contracted during the actual crisis.[68]

In popular culture

Several weeks after the spill, Saturday Night Live aired a pointed sketch featuring Kevin Nealon, Phil Hartman, and Victoria Jackson as cleanup workers struggling to scrub the oil off of animals and rocks on a beach in Prince William Sound.

In the 1995 film Waterworld, the Exxon Valdez is the flagship of the movie's villain, "The Deacon," the leader of a band of scavenging raiders. In the ship is a portrait of their patron saint, Joseph Hazelwood.

In the second Forrest Gump novel, Gump and Co. by Winston Groom, Gump commandeers the Exxon Valdez and accidentally crashes it.[69]

See also

References

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Further reading

External links

Barrow's goldeneye

Barrow's goldeneye (Bucephala islandica) is a medium-sized sea duck of the genus Bucephala, the goldeneyes. This bird was named after Sir John Barrow. The genus name is derived from Ancient Greek boukephalos, "bullheaded", from bous, "bull " and kephale, "head", a reference to the bulbous head shape of the bufflehead. The species name islandica means Iceland.

Bligh Island (Alaska)

Bligh Island is an island located in Prince William Sound, Alaska. This island – or more precisely, the neighboring Bligh Reef – was the location of the 1989 Exxon Valdez oil spill.The island was named after William Bligh, of future HMS Bounty fame, who served as Master aboard ship during James Cook's third world voyage.

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 collisions with the reef. Despite these efforts the tug Pathfinder ran aground on Bligh Reef on Dec 24, 2009, rupturing its tanks and spilling diesel fuel. Bligh Reef is also where Alaska Steamship Company's Olympia ran aground in 1910.Bligh Reef serves as a fishing ground for halibut and a harvesting area for shrimp. The nearest town is Tatitlek, which lies 7 miles to the northeast.The reef was named after William Bligh, of future HMS Bounty fame, who served as Master aboard ship during James Cook's third world voyage.

Double-hulled tanker

A double-hulled tanker refers to an oil tanker which has a double hull. They reduce the likelihood of leaks occurring than in single-hulled tankers, and their ability to prevent or reduce oil spills led to double hulls being standardized for oil tankers and other types of ships including by the International Convention for the Prevention of Pollution from Ships or MARPOL Convention. After the Exxon Valdez oil spill disaster in Alaska in 1989, the US Government required all new oil tankers built for use between US ports to be equipped with a full double hull.

Exxon Shipping Co. v. Baker

Exxon Shipping Co. v. Baker, 554 U.S. 471 (2008), 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 from the Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals. The Ninth Circuit had also ruled that Exxon could be held liable for the reckless conduct of the ship's captain, Joseph J. Hazelwood, who had left the bridge during the disaster and had been drinking vodka that evening. The Supreme Court was split 4-4 on the question of whether Exxon was liable for Hazelwood's action. The result of the split is that the Ninth Circuit's ruling on Exxon's respondeat superior liability for Hazelwood's conduct remains since Hazelwood acted in a managerial capacity under the Restatement (Second) of Torts Section 909(c) approach to punitive damages.

After considering the punitive damage policies of foreign nations, the Court reasoned that although punitive damages were warranted, they may not exceed what Exxon already paid to compensate victims for economic losses, which was about US$500 million. It held that a one-to-one ratio between punitive and compensatory damages was "a fair upper limit" in maritime cases that involved recklessness, compared to the lower liability of negligence or the higher liability of intentional conduct. Its reasoning, "The real problem, it seems, is the stark unpredictability of punitive awards," frustrates the goal of punitive damages, deterring reprehensible conduct, because predictable damages create an incentive to continue dangerous misconduct if the personal injury liability is less than the potential profit, as on the Ford Pinto. It suggested giving a "bad man" the chance to look ahead and to calculate the consequences of doing or not doing a bad act will deter harmful actions. He suggests the upper limits on punitive damages should be as predictable as the legislative range of criminal sentences, but no minimum for punitive damages were discussed.

Justice David Souter wrote for the majority, joined in full by Chief Justice John Roberts and Justices Antonin Scalia, Anthony Kennedy, and Clarence Thomas. Justice Samuel Alito took no part in the decision because he owns stock in ExxonMobil.

Justice Stevens wrote a separate opinion concurring in part and dissenting in part. His dissent advocated judicial restraint because Congress has chosen to regulate maritime tort law. Stevens wrote that the trial court award of $2.5 billion in punitive damages was not an abuse of discretion and should have been affirmed.

Of this reasoning, Boston University law professor Keith Hylton said, "The court's elaborate and lengthy argument for the one-to-one ratio is troubling for several reasons. First, the whole discussion was largely unnecessary if the court really wanted to limit its decision to maritime cases. The court's majority appears to be trying to make the case for imposing the one-to-one ratio as a default rule in ordinary civil cases."

Exxon Valdez

Oriental Nicety, formerly Exxon Valdez, Exxon Mediterranean, SeaRiver Mediterranean, S/R Mediterranean, Mediterranean, and Dong Fang Ocean, was an oil tanker that gained notoriety after running aground in Prince William Sound spilling hundreds of thousands of barrels of crude oil in Alaska. On March 24, 1989, while owned by the former Exxon Shipping Company, and captained by Joseph Hazelwood and First Mate James Kunkel bound for Long Beach, California, the vessel ran aground on the Bligh Reef resulting in the second largest oil spill in United States history. The size of the spill is estimated to have been 40,900 to 120,000 m3 (10,800,000 to 31,700,000 US gal), or 257,000 to 750,000 barrels. In 1989, the Exxon Valdez oil spill was listed as the 54th largest spill in history.

Gregory Cousins

Gregory Cousins (born 1964), of Tampa, Florida, was third mate at the time of Exxon Valdez oil spill. He was left in control of the vessel, but failed to maneuver it to the required lane, when it struck Bligh Reef in Prince William Sound. Cousins had a Coast Guard license to command the ship in most waters, but did not have the special endorsement that was required for Prince William Sound.Though he appeared in court, Cousins was cleared of charges.

Jim Merkel

Jim Merkel (born 1957) is an American author and engineer, who moved from involvement in the military industry to advocating simple living. Since 1989, Merkel has dedicated himself to trying to reduce his personal impact on the environment and to encourage others to do the same.

Initially trained as an electrical engineer, Merkel spent twelve years designing industrial and military systems. After witnessing the devastation following the 1989 Exxon Valdez oil spill, however, he concluded that global problems had become so urgent as to require immediate action. He consequently quit his job and began a new career as an environmental activist and spokesman.

He claims to have lived on $5,000 a year (close to the global median income) for 16 years (ca. 1989 – 2005), later increasing to $10,000 per year. He founded the Alternative Transportation Task Force in San Luis Obispo, California and served briefly as an elected officer of the Sierra Club; he conducts approximately 60 workshops each year on sustainable living and "radical simplicity" in the United States, Canada, and Spain.

In 1994 he received an Earthwatch Gaia Fellowship, allowing him to visit Kerala, India, and parts of the Himalayas to research sustainable living. In 1995, he founded the Global Living Project and continues to serve as its co-director.

In April 2005, Dartmouth College appointed him its first Sustainability Director. He lives in Belfast, Maine.

Jiyeh Power Station oil spill

The Jiyeh Power Station oil spill is an environmental disaster caused by the release of heavy fuel oil into the eastern Mediterranean after storage tanks at the thermal power station in Jiyeh, Lebanon, 30 km (19 mi) south of Beirut, were bombed by the Israeli Air force on July 14 and July 15, 2006 during the 2006 Israel-Lebanon conflict. The plant's damaged tanks leaked up to 30,000 tonnes of oil into the eastern Mediterranean Sea, A 10 km wide oil slick covered 170 km of coastline,

and threatened Turkey and Cyprus. The slick killed fish, threatened the habitat of endangered green sea turtles, and potentially increased the risk of cancer.

Although Al Jazeera compared the scale of the oil spill to that of the Exxon Valdez oil spill, later assessment found that the volume spilled was 15 000 - 30 000 tonnes compared to 42 000 tonnes for the Exxon Valdez oil spill. The coastline affected was between 150–170 km, while the Exxon Valdez oil spill affected 2,100 km of coastline.

According to Lebanon's Environment Minister Yacoub Sarraf, Israeli jets deterred firemen from putting out the fire at the storage units, which continued for 10 days, and the Israeli Navy blockade stopped Lebanese and foreign officials from surveying the damage of the spill.

Joseph Hazelwood

Joseph Jeffrey Hazelwood (born September 24, 1946) is an American sailor. He was the captain of Exxon Valdez during its 1989 oil spill. He was accused of being intoxicated which contributed to the disaster, but was cleared of this charge at his 1990 trial after witnesses testified that he was sober around the time of the accident. Hazelwood was convicted of a lesser charge, negligent discharge of oil (a misdemeanor), fined $50,000, and sentenced to 1,000 hours of community service.

Knight Island (Alaska)

Knight Island is an island in western Prince William Sound of the Gulf of Alaska in the U.S. state of Alaska.

The island has a land area of 277.166 km² (107.014 sq mi) and no resident population as of 2000. The majority of the island is a part of Chugach National Forest; Alaska native corporations Chugach Alaska Corporation and Chenega Corporation are the two other major landowners.Shorelines on the eastern and northwestern part of the island were heavily covered in oil after the Exxon Valdez oil spill, northeast of the island, in 1989.

Prince William Sound

Prince William Sound (Russian: Чугацкий залив Čugatski zaliv) is a sound of 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. Other settlements on the sound, which contains numerous small islands, include Cordova and Whittier plus the Alaska native villages of Chenega and Tatitlek.

Riki Ott

Riki Ott (born August 8, 1954) is a marine toxicologist and activist in Cordova, Alaska. Ott was frequently introduced as an "oil spill expert" in her many media appearances during the height of the 2010 BP Deepwater Horizon oil spill news coverage. After graduating with a doctorate in sedimentary toxicology from the University of Washington, Ott moved to Alaska and started a fishing business. When the Exxon Valdez oil spill disrupted the local fishing-based economy, she became an environmental activist. Since the spill, she has participated in legal and public relations disputes with the Exxon company.

Ott has more recently become involved in the movement to end corporate personhood through a constitutional amendment. She has also repeatedly visited the Gulf of Mexico in the wake of the spill, which, she argues, is causing health consequences similar to the 1989 Exxon spill.

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. The companies, Aleutian Dragon Fisheries (ADF), Icicle Seafoods, North Coast Seafood Processors, North Pacific Processors, Ocean Beauty Seafoods, Trident Seafoods, Wards Cove Packing Co. were paid $63.75 million.

Steve Cowper

Stephen Cambreleng Cowper (born August 21, 1938) is an American Democratic politician who was the sixth governor of Alaska from 1986–90. He was governor during the 1989 Exxon Valdez oil spill.

Trident Seafoods

Trident Seafoods is the largest seafood company in the United States. It is based in Seattle, Washington. It manages a network of fishing ships, processing plants, and a vertically integrated distributorship of its products. It sells frozen, canned, smoked and ready-to-eat seafood products for the wholesale, retail and food service markets under a variety of different brand names.

It is a member of the Pacific Whiting Conservation Cooperative.

Valdez Blockade

The Exxon Valdez oil spill of 1989 had devastated the shore around Prince William Sound, diminishing the marine population. Consequently, the fishery industry in the area faced a sharp fall on their fish catch and revenue. Feeling little had been done to study the impact of the spill, a group of fishermen sailed off to begin a blockade of the Valdez Narrows on August 20, 1993. While tankers must pass through Valdez Narrows to enter the port of Valdez, seven tankers were held off in the three-day blockade.

As oil was continuing to pump through the Trans-Alaska Pipeline System, and tankers were keeping off shore, the storage tanks in Valdez would soon overflow. With the probability in interrupting the oil flow to prevent an overflow, and also facing a growing loss in profits, the government came in to settle the blockade. The blockade was called off after Interior Secretary Bruce Babbitt promised to release $5 million of the Exxon Valdez Oil Spill restoration funds for ecosystem-wide studies.

Comprehensive studies of the effects of the spill toward the ecosystem around Prince William Sound began in the following year.

Valdez–Cordova Census Area, Alaska

Valdez–Cordova Census Area is a census area located in the state of Alaska, United States. As of the 2010 census, the population was 9,636. It is part of the unorganized borough and therefore has no borough seat. Its largest communities are Valdez and Cordova.

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