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Exxon Valdez, 20 years later

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Exxon Valdez, 20 years later

Post by shammy on Tue Mar 24, 2009 4:02 am

Tuesday marks the 20th anniversary of one of this country’s great ecological disasters. The Exxon Valdez slammed into Bligh Reef in Alaska’s Prince William Sound, spilling 11 million gallons of crude oil, damaging 1,300 miles of shoreline, disrupting the livelihoods of thousands of Americans and fouling one of the country’s richest fishing grounds.

More than $2 billion has been spent on cleanup and recovery. Exxon has paid at least $1 billion in damages. Supertankers have been made safer with double hulls, emergency teams given better equipment. Some fish species, though not all, have recovered.

Yet the Exxon Valdez still sends a powerful cautionary message: oil development, however necessary, is an inherently risky, dirty business — especially so in the forbidding waters of the Arctic.

The White House should keep that in mind as it maps out its energy strategy. While rightly emphasizing conservation, efficiency and renewable energy, President Obama has said that oil and gas drilling in America’s coastal waters will be part of the mix. The challenge is to do it right, and do it carefully.

Mr. Obama’s interior secretary, Ken Salazar, has said he won’t be rushed into offshore drilling — a refreshing contrast to the “drill baby drill” mania of the 2008 G.O.P. campaign. He has already pulled back a Bush administration plan opening up huge swaths of the Atlantic and Pacific coasts to drilling. He promises a more measured proposal by the end of the year.

Mr. Salazar must also make decisions about the waters of Alaska and the Gulf of Mexico, which hold the bulk of America’s untapped reserves and have always been open to drilling. Drilling in the gulf has caused relatively few environmental problems and is widely accepted. Drilling in Alaskan waters is another issue altogether. The unforgiving Arctic environment is far riskier; icy, turbulent waters would make oil spills hard to contain. And the ecological damage could be staggering; Alaska’s waters contain some of the richest fisheries and most varied wildlife on earth.


"O Allah remove the hardship, O Lord of mankind, grant cure for You are the Healer. There is no cure but from You, a cure which leaves no illness behind."

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