The Arctic, 23 Years After Exxon Valdez
It’s been 23 years since the now-infamous oil tanker Exxon Valdez spilled 11 million gallons of crude oil in Prince William Sound, Alaska, on March 24, 1989. The spill was one of the most devastating environmental disasters in history, with far-reaching consequences for wildlife and people. Prince William Sound’s remote location, accessible only by helicopter, plane and boat, made government and industry response efforts difficult and severely taxed existing plans for response. The crude oil eventually covered 1,300 miles of coastline and 11,000 square miles of ocean. Today, tens of thousands of gallons of crude oil still linger.
America’s Arctic Ocean is a national treasure and is home to many of our nation’s most beloved wildlife species ó polar bears, walrus, ice seals, bowhead whales, beluga whales and more. Unfortunately, politicians and oil companies seem all too eager to forget the lessons of Exxon Valdez. This summer, if we donít stop it, exploratory drilling will begin in the Arctic Ocean.
The Chukchi and Beaufort seas, where Shell Oil is slated to begin drilling, are far more inaccessible and remote than Prince William Sound, and the seas are far more treacherous and ice-locked for much of the year. An oil spill in the Arcticís remote, ice-choked waters would simply be impossible to clean up, and the environmental destruction that would ensue in this pristine ecosystem is unimaginable ó the Deepwater Horizon spill would look tame by comparison.
For all these reasons, groups like the Center for Biological Diversity have blocked all drilling in the Arctic since 2007 ó and itís why we should block it again this year. It’s time to demand real change, not just business as usual and empty promises.
Help the Center for Biological Diversity send 1 million signatures to President Barack Obama asking him to stop Shell’s reckless drilling plans and say NO to Arctic drilling. If Obama approves Shell’s plans, we could face an irreversible oil-spill disaster in one of America’s last, best wildernesses.
Photo of the Exxon Valdez spill courtesy of Exxon Valdez Oil Spill Trustee Council