Mar 24, 2019: Images after Exxon Valdez oil spill for 30th anniversary deliver a warning
UNITED STATES - Thirty years ago the Exxon Valdez oil tanker struck Bligh Reef in Alaska’s pristine Prince William Sound and spilled 11 million gallons of crude. Until the 2010 Deepwater Horizon disaster, it was the worst oil spill in U.S. history. The aftermath images serve as an environmental impact warning to the Trump Administration, which plans to open the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge to drilling.
Initial attempts to contain the Exxon Valdez oil in the Sound failed. A storm blew in, spreading the crude along some 1,300 miles of coastline, killing hundreds of thousands of seabirds, otters, seals and whales. Though the oil has mostly disappeared from view, many Alaskan beaches remain polluted, with crude oil buried just inches below the surface.
The Los Angeles Times reports that the Interior Department’s Bureau of Land Management said in December that it intends to hold an oil and gas lease sale in 2019 that would open up exploration of the coastal plain on approximately 1.6 million acres of the 19.3-million-acre Arctic Refuge. The first lease sale would offer no fewer than 400,000 acres of “high-potential” land for bids, the bureau said.
The refuge has long been closed to oil and gas exploration despite great interest in the petroleum industry, with opponents blocking repeated attempts by Alaskans – and Republicans – to proceed. The Tax Cuts and Jobs Act of 2017 has provided the means to get around the restrictions, and the administration of President Donald Trump is reported to be cutting short the required studies and hearings to make sure it begins quickly.
“There’s no precedent for anything done this quickly for an environmental review of this scale,” Adam Kolton, executive director of the Alaska Wilderness League, told the Los Angeles Times.
The Wilderness Society issued a report saying that the administration’s estimates of oil in the refuge “was based on outdated information and overly optimistic assumptions about how much oil exists in the region, the price of such oil and the speed with which it could be developed and taken to market.”