Fourteen years after Exxon Valdez slimed over one thousand miles
of Alaskan beaches, the oily company has yet to pay most of the
damages awarded by the jury. The $4 billion Exxon owes for
"punitive" damages is getting off easy: by Exxon's own
calculation it merely equals the cost of the damage they inflicted.
I know. I worked for the native villages whose coastline was
oiled - IS oiled... the gunk is still there, still deadly, no
matter the mendacious Exxon mouthpieces tell you.
Now, Exxon-Mobil, the Number One campaign contributor to the
George W. Bush campaigns, has gotten their big fat sloppy payoff.
Last week, the Bushified appellate courts in Texas ordered the
Alaskan judge once again to review the award.
Exxon's grinnin'. More delay. Which doesn't bother my friend
Paul Kompkoff of Chenega. The elderly sealhunter passed away
waiting for his compensation.
Exxon calls the Exxon Valdez an "accident." Wasn't their fault.
Accident my ass, it was ...
A Well-Designed Disaster: The Untold Story of the Exxon Valdez
On March 24, 1989, the Exxon Valdez broke open and covered twelve
hundred miles of Alaska’s shoreline with oily sludge.
The official story remains “Drunken Skipper Hits Reef.” Don’t
In fact, when the ship hit, Captain Joe Hazelwood was nowhere
near the wheel, but belowdecks, sleeping off his bender. The man
left at the helm, the third mate, would never have hit Bligh Reef
had he simply looked at his Raycas radar. But he could not,
because the radar was not turned on. The complex Raycas system
costs a lot to operate, so frugal Exxon management left it broken
and useless for the entire year before the grounding.
The land Exxon smeared and destroyed belongs to the Chugach
natives of the Prince William Sound. Within days of the spill,
the Chugach tribal corporation asked me and my partner Lenora
Stewart to investigate allegations of fraud by Exxon and the
little-known “Alyeska” consortium. In three years’ digging, we
followed a twenty-year train of doctored safety records, illicit
deals between oil company chiefs, and programmatic harassment of
witnesses. And we documented the oil majors’ brilliant success in
that old American sport, cheating the natives. Our summary of
evidence ran to four volumes. Virtually none of it was reported:
The media had turned off its radar. Here’s a bit of the story
you’ve never been told:
We discovered an internal memo describing a closed, top Level
meeting of oil company executives in Arizona held just ten months
before the spill. It was a meeting of the “Alyeska Owners
Committee,” the six-company combine that owns the Alaska pipeline
and most of the state’s oil. In that meeting, say the notes, the
chief of their Valdez operations, Theo Polasek, warned executives
that containing an oil spill “at the mid-point of Prince William
Sound not possible with present equipment”—exactly where the Exxon
Valdez grounded. Polasek needed millions of dollars for
spillcontainment equipment. The law required it, the companies
promised it to regulators, then at the meeting, the proposed
spending was voted down. The oil company combine had a cheaper
plan to contain any spill—don’t bother. According to an internal
memorandum, they’d just drop some dispersants and walk away.
That’s exactly what happened. “At the owners committee meeting in
Phoenix, it was decided that Alyeska would provide immediate
response to oil spills in Valdez Arm and Valdez Narrows only” —
not the Prince William Sound.
Smaller spills before the Exxon disaster would have alerted
government watchdogs that the port’s oil-spill-containment system
was not up to scratch. But the oil group’s lab technician, Erlene
Blake, told us that management routinely ordered her to change
test results to eliminate “oil-in-water” readings. The procedure
was simple, says Blake. She was told to dump out oily water and
refill test tubes from a bucket of cleansed sea water, which they
called “the Miracle Barrel.”
A confidential letter dated April 1984, fully four years before
the big spill, written by Captain James Woodle, then the oil
group’s Valdez Port commander, warns management that “Due to a
reduction in manning, age of equipment, limited training and lack
of personnel, serious doubt exists that [we] would be able to
contain and clean up effectively a medium or large size oil
spill.” Woodle told us there was a spill at Valdez before the
Exxon Valdez collision, though not nearly as large. When he
prepared to report it to the government, his supervisor forced
him to take back the notice, with the Orwellian command, “You
made a mistake. This was not an oil spill.”
In response to requests from readers here’s a few things you can
The rest of this story can be found on page 263 in “The Best
Democracy Money Can Buy”.
- Stop pumping gas at ExxonMobil stations
- Get involved with the Stop Esso Campaign at www.stopesso.com/
- Forward this email to your friends and family
To receive more of Greg's investigative reports click here: www.gregpalast.com/contact.cfm
Greg Palast is author of the bestseller, "The Best Democracy
Money Can Buy," and the worstseller, "Democracy and Regulation."
The later, regarding the dangers of deregulation, written with
Theo MacGregor and Jerrold Oppenheim, was financed and published
by the United Nations ILO.
Media enquiries: firstname.lastname@example.org