(Prince William Sound, AK) – Exxon today celebrates the 25th anniversary of the Exxon Valdez oil spill. The celebration isn’t a testament to time, and it isn’t a testament to the resiliency of nature. Rather, it’s a testament to how a major company can commit a major crime and get away with a slap on the wrist.
On March 24, 1989, the Exxon Valdez oil tanker, under the command of alcoholic Captain Joseph Hazelwood, struck Bligh Reef at Prince William Sound. Of the 55 million gallons of crude oil being transported, 11 million gallons – or 20% – spilled and contaminated the local environment, according to estimates by the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA). Crude oil covered 1,300 miles of coastline and 11,000 square miles of ocean. Additionally, countless indigenous salmon, sea otters, seals and seabirds were injured or killed.
“It was certainly not our finest hour,” said an Exxon spokesman, speaking on condition of anonymity. “We did have a little oopsie that day. But, thankfully, Americans have very short memories.”
Captain Hazelwood, who drank “two or three vodkas” about six hours before the Exxon Valdez hit Bligh Reef, was found to have a blood alcohol content of .061 – shy of the .08 mark for being legally impaired – but 10 hours after the incident. Hazelwood never lost his license, but has since been able to find work due to his infamy.
“His name has been tarnished, and his reputation has been besmirched, but his liquor cabinet is full and his spirits remain high,” said a Hazelwood spokesman, speaking on condition of anonymity.
Alaska sued Exxon and won $5,287,000,000 in damages. Thanks to years of litigation and lawyers with no scruples, the judgment was eventually reduced to $507,500,000.
Life hasn’t been too bad for Exxon since 1989. The company set the annual earnings record for any company in 2008 – $45.2 billion – the same year gas prices set the one-day record of $4.114/gallon.
As for a “celebration” to mark the event, the environmental and anti-fossil fuel group Greenpeace is planning to voyage to Prince William Sound and drop environmentally-friendly flowers at the spot of the impact.
“Of course, we’ll be travelling there in one of our repurposed ships,” said a Greenpeace spokesman, speaking on condition of anonymity. “This one is a newer vessel, and it actually gets up to five nautical miles per gallon. That’s a great improvement over previous ships. It’s like visiting Prince William Sound in a Prius!”