Sunday, April 09, 2017

The Role a Melting Glacier Played in Exxon’s Biggest Disaster

Oil spills from the crippled tanker Exxon Valdez the morning of March 24, 1989, after the vessel ran aground on Bligh Reef in Prince William Sound. (Credit: Click to Enlarge.
The Exxon Valdez oil spill was one of the earliest and most devastating examples of the risks posed by a changing climate, many scientists now say — one that ultimately resulted in the polluting of a pristine sound, the destruction of local fisheries, and cost Exxon a total of $3.4 billion through 2008 in cleanup costs and court settlements.

A number of factors, including an inebriated captain who had retired to his stateroom, an overworked crew and lax regulatory oversight, led to the accident. But it was the icebergs from the deteriorating glacier that created the treacherous conditions that forced the ship to veer off course.

This story is the result of dozens of interviews with scientists, government officials and oil industry employees, as well as a review of documents obtained from the U.S. Geological Survey, U.S. Coast Guard, National Archives, National Transportation Safety Board, Vanderbilt University, University of Alaska and the Exxon Mobil Historical Collection at the University of Texas at Austin’s Briscoe Center for American History.

For the two decades following the Exxon Valdez disaster, the company worked quietly to safeguard its operations and infrastructure against steadily rising sea levels and thawing permafrost. Yet in public, it vociferously fought regulations and policies that would have limited fossil fuel emissions while publicly questioning the science behind climate change.

Read more at The Role a Melting Glacier Played in Exxon’s Biggest Disaster

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