Tuesday marks 20 years since the Exxon Valdez dumped nearly 11 million of gallons of crude oil into Alaskan waters, resulting in the most severe impacts on the environment of any spill anywhere. I was there and will attest to the graveness of the situation then, and now — my memories of that day are graphic. I boarded the tanker a few hours after the spill began to enforce clean-up standards. The pungent, toxic smell of the oil is still fresh in my memory today.
The spill eventually devastated hundreds of miles of coastline, damaged ocean ecosystems and community resources, and distressed the local economy by closing commercial fisheries and hampering tourism. Though 20 years have passed, 16,000 gallons of oil remain in the water and three animal species still have not recovered.
As Congress and the White House continue a national debate on offshore oil drilling, we still need to learn our lessons from the largest oil spill in U.S. waters. According to a report by the U.S. Coast Guard, six major and five medium spills totaling more than ... Read more