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Monday, March 22, 2010

Remember the Exxon Valdez

Keep off the gas!

This post follows on from Aren't Otters Extraordinarily Cute (pab's potpourri, 2009.04.01), 21 years on from the event that inspired composition of these bits and pieces. Pictures remind us vividly what our dependence on oil costs. If you need a graphic reminder, please check out these collections:

Further consequences of the Valdez spillage

Though a corporate piece on Spill prevention says,"The clean-up was declared complete by the State of Alaska and the U.S. Coast Guard in 1992" (ExxonMobil, [no date]), that must have been in reference to  immediate and superficial clean-up, rather than restoration, and Mapes suggests undetected harm was still coming to light: 
"Still to be litigated is a claim against Exxon by the federal government and state of Alaska for $92 million in so-called "re-opener" damages, intended to help pay for environmental harm not detected at the time of the spill."
 (Mapes, 2008, The damage remains, ¶4)

Alaska's Exxon Valdez Oil Spill Trustee Council paints a grim picture, not three but ten years after the Valdez ran ground:
"...[O]ne of the most stunning revelations of Trustee Council-funded monitoring over the last ten years is that Exxon Valdez oil persists in the environment and[,] in places, is nearly as toxic as it was the first few weeks after the spill."
 (Exxon Valdez Oil Spill Trustee Council, no date, Status of Restoration, Lingering oil, ¶1)
"The amount of Exxon Valdez oil remaining substantially exceeds the sum total of all previous oil pollution on beaches in Prince William Sound, including oil spilled during the 1964 earthquake. This Exxon Valdez oil is decreasing at a rate of 0-4% per year, with only a 5% chance that the rate is as high as 4%. At this rate, the remaining oil will take decades and possibly centuries to disappear entirely."
(Exxon ValdezOil Spill Trustee Council, no date, Status of Restoration Lingering oil, ¶4)

Who has payed what price?

Who was ship's Master during the spill?

"Hazelwood was acquitted on all felony charges, but was convicted of a misdemeanor charge of negligent discharge of oil, fined $50,000, and sentenced to 1,000 hours of community service" (Wikipedia, Joseph Hazelwood, Exxon Valdez oil spill, ¶ 2 [2010.03.22]).

What says ExxonMobil?

A blurb on a corporate current issues web page says they "took immediate responsibility for the spill and have spent over $3.8 billion as a result of the accident, including compensatory payments, cleanup payments, settlements and fines" (ExxonMobil, 2009). That blurb doesn't specify what part of that $3.8, up from $3.5 (ExxonMobil, 2007) includes money spent on legal fees and court costs through appeals:
  1. To the 9th Circuit Court of Appeals to reduce punitive damages from 4.5 to 2.5 billion (ExxonMobil, 2006), and then
  2. To "the Supreme Court [which] slashed those damages to about $500 million" (Lanfitt, 2008, ¶1).
Lanfitt's report, based on Associated Press sources, explains: "The high court said ... punitive damages shouldn't be any larger than the compensatory damages the company had already been ordered to pay" (2008, ¶3). Supreme Court records show the "case remanded to the United States Court of Appeals for the Ninth Circuit to remit punitive damages award accordingly" (Supreme Court of the United States, 2008, Opinions, No. 07-219, p. 1035).

A Seattle Times article pegs that figure at $507.5 million (Mapes, 2008, ¶2), and a factoid in the sidebar of that article suggests that it will take Exxon "about 12 hours of sales" to recoup that amount. ExxonMobil calls it $508 million (no date, ¶2).

How are our maths? (in rough billions USD)

3.8 Spent (ExxonMobil, 2009)
- 0.5 Compensation ordered (Mapes, 2008)
- 0.5 Punitive damages (Lanfit, 2008)
2.8 Other expenditures

Do those other expenditures include Exxon's legal costs? Mapes (2008) suggests there were "more than 60 / law firms involved" (sidebar: The spill by the numbers: The money).

When next where: Five more years till double hulls?

The U.S. "Congress has enacted legislation requiring all tankers to be double-hulled by 2015" (Wikipedia, 2010, Other consquences, ¶1). What about other countries?


Better keep our feet off the gas for a few more years.


References


1 comment:

  1. Though the Australian Maritime Safety Authority's Major Oil Spills in Australia web page lists over two dozen events, and links to details of a spill "<2 tonnes", there is as yet no listing for the spill from a bulk coal carrier that crashed into the Great Barrier Reef earlier this week. However, its Shen Neng1 Media Gallery provides official updates and images.

    Francis, writing for goallover.org, suggests that "three or four tons of oil [have] leaked" already (Reef Crash Boat an "Environmental Time Bomb", 2010.04.08). ABC News Watch notes, "ABC News [http://www.abc.net.au/] seems to be having some trouble nailing down the amount of oil that leaked from the coal carrier Shen Neng 1 after it hit Douglas Shoal in the Great Barrier Reef" (Shen Neng 1 - How much oil?, 2010.04.08).

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