What Exxon Valdez Spill Can Still Teach Us

Publication: CNN Opinion

Author: Marilyn Heiman


03/24/2011 - The March 24, 1989, Exxon Valdez catastrophe no longer holds the distinction of being the largest oil spill ever in U.S. waters. In sheer size, it was eclipsed last April by the disastrous well blowout in the Gulf of Mexico. But as our video, “Lingering Oil,” shows, the lessons of the Exxon Valdez spill are more vital than ever today as we approach the first anniversary of the Deepwater Horizon explosion and contemplate drilling in the even more challenging Arctic Ocean.

Twenty-two years ago, the United States had become complacent about the risks of a major spill. Then, minutes after midnight, the Exxon Valdez super tanker ran aground in Alaska’s beautiful and biologically rich Prince William Sound. The sight of oiled seabirds in this spectacular setting shocked the world.

Even more disturbing was the lack of oversight, prevention and cleanup measures revealed by the spill.

Read the full editorial What Exxon Valdez Spill Can Still Teach Us on CNN's Web site.

Marilyn Heiman is director of the Pew Environment Group's U.S. Arctic Program and its offshore energy reform efforts. She was an aide to the Alaska Legislature's House Resources Committee during the Exxon Valdez oil spill and later served as the Department of the Interior's Alaska representative on the six-person Exxon Valdez Oil Spill Trustee Council.

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