Thirty years ago today the Exxon Valdez ran aground in Alaska’s Prince William Sound ultimately releasing ten to thirty-one million gallons of crude oil into the waters and along the shore of the area.
When the Trans-Alaska pipeline was opened to bring oil from its northern reaches near Point Barrow, most of the environmental criticism centered around the dangers of earthquakes that might rupture it and the impact to native caribou and other migratory animals. Pipelines of this complexity were relatively new and had to be constructed to shift during earthquakes. It was deemed nationally important because of the recent Mideast oil crisis, which had created a call for energy independence.
The pipeline itself has performed relatively well, though not perfectly. The worst spill occurred when someone intentionally created a small hole, resulting in 16,000 gallons escaping. It was the old-school tanker transport system that led to this spill.
The cause of the wreck was human error, complicated by the fact that the shi’s radar system was not
This oil spill is the second worst in US history, now eclipsed by the Deep Water Horizon disaster of 2010, although there have been many larger incidents elsewhere in the world.
Today, thanks in part to extensive cleanup work and perhaps more to the resiliency of nature, Prince William Sound has something of its prior natural state, with wildlife returning. That fact is a credit to those who helped mitigate the harm of the