Skip to main content

tv   The Spill  CSPAN  March 23, 2019 12:30pm-1:01pm EDT

12:30 pm
the scale was inconceivable. >> where were you working and what was your job there? an: i worked for the anchorage , also doing business, so i had covered oil in before the spill. >> how large was the industry in alaska at that time? tan: the modern oil industry as we know it today started in alaska in 1967 when there was a huge oil strike. the pipeline began operating in 1973 and that is when the traffic in prince william sound began. 16, 15 years passed before was built. the oil industry in alaska
12:31 pm
, one of the jokes was, even the alaska legislature could not waste it all. a lot of this was spent on state services. so, the oil industry, besides generating all of this money took an acute interest in politics because they were always interested in taxes and regulation. their influence over the legislature became a norm us and it was almost mandatory to be oil friendly to get it to the legislature. -- elected to the legislature. >> who were some of the big companies operating? stan: the big three were and are exxon mobil and
12:32 pm
conagra foods. the names have changed. early in the day, what was conoco was really are co-, but the big three players have not changed much. the big two are still bp and exxon. >> you mention the influence over the legislature. what did that mean for regulation of oil in the state it wasn mark stan: always in a norm us battle to get any new regulation in place. the trend tended to run the opposite direction. regulations tended to get looser, not tighter. to doegulation having with the operation of that tanker, the exxon valdez were federal in arjun and focus. the regulations having to do with cleanup on the other hand, were fundamentally at the state level and that was part of the
12:33 pm
problem. regulations were a big part of spill.blem in the the federal side, it was too loose. the state oversight of cleanup readiness was too loose and that is why the company that runs the sound in prince william was just unprepared for cleanup. so the first three days or so, there was essentially no cleanup effort. they had uncharacteristically had three days of really good weather. there was a glossy lake of oil spreading out from the tanker and essentially nothing to clean it up. >> can we explain to people watching how does the oil process work? ande does it pulled from where was it going?
12:34 pm
sure. northproduced on alaska's coast. permafrost country. it is hard to operate in. there's a population of caribou and polar bears up there that has to be perfect did. the oil industry has done a good job. on the north slope, the two big , on there gigantic scale of saudi arabia, russia, or something. it on the north pipeline is put into a that runs 800 miles south through the middle of alaska to the port of valdez on prince william sound. then it is shipped to the u.s. west coast. i think the exxon valdez was
12:35 pm
headed for long beach. it was carrying about the g3 million darren soto -- gallons of oil. and the rest is history, sadly. >> can we talk about what happened on that day? sure. the tanker left valdez before midnight. it sailed through prince william sound. 4 a.m. on march 24, which was good friday, it hit black reef, which was a well marked navigational hazard in prince william sound. what happened before -- there had been reports of icebergs in the tanker lanes. so the captain asked for permission to deviate from the tanker lanes to avoid icebergs. it's a fairly tricky maneuver, but nothing unusual.
12:36 pm
it happened all the time. the failure was to return to the taker lanes at the appropriate point. instead, the ship sailed into this reef. there were conditions on the ship that contributed to the accident. there was always a question as to whether the master was drinking and if he was drinking, was it a factor? that was never a established clearly and i kind of doubt it myself. what he did was to put the first mate in charge of the bridge and go below to do paperwork. the crew was worked very hard. the size of the crew had been reduced. it was a constant battle of fatigue and overwork and that was identified as a contributing factor. at any rate, the third mate was in charge of the bridge.
12:37 pm
as a technical matter, he was not qualified and he should not have been. but it comes back to workload and the skinny nacelle to cruise on most tankers. and all those things -- and the inniness of the crews on those tankers. usually they measure tanker cargoes and barrels. it was one and a quarter million barrels. and the spell lost about 11 million gallons -- the spill lost about 11 million gallons. it has been controversial. the number i gave you is a generally accepted figure. the reason it is hard to figure thehow much oil it loss, as
12:38 pm
oil came out, water came in, so it's hard to get an accurate measurement of how much was lost. >> you mentioned prince william sound. where's that located? william sound is located on the gulf of alaska. it's a couple hundred miles south of anchorage. it's more or less in the middle of the state. it's a beautiful expanse of enclosed waters with islands and ,inancial us and -- peninsulas sea sea life, bears, otters, and so on. anyone who has ever visited prince william sound has been stunned by the natural beauty and relatively untouched by man. you don't see much development. a few little fishing villages. normally you will see a few fishing boats on the water, maybe cargo vessels with
12:39 pm
containers. there is a container port in valdez. very little touch from the hand of man. then you have this tanker that spilled oil, fouled everything in sight, and it was a shock to the conscience into the consciousness -- how could this happen? when oil spill's into a large body of water like that, what does it do to it? how fast does it travel? do we know? the oil does not travel very fast. it is carried on top by currents. it does not tend to disperse into the water if the water is calm. but if you have a storm, as there was on prince william sound a few days later, he get -- it gets mixed into the water. then it is a threat to fish and plankton. with on the surface it is a threat to sea otters and whales
12:40 pm
because they have to come up to breathe. then it hits the beaches and destroys the beach ecosystem. was exxon alerted the spill had happened? and when did the actual efforts to try to stop it began? exxonwell, i'm sure that was alerted immediately by the crew of the ship. black reef inon prince william sound and we are leaking oil. i know the captain called the coast guard in valdez immediately and he said we are hard aground and evidently we are losing some oil. and he said on the radio he was going to try and rock the boat and get off the reef and proceed, which was just a terrifying possibility. so badly damaged, there is a good chance it would have sunk or capsized if he
12:41 pm
succeeded in doing that. he didn't. so the ship stayed on the reef and did not continue to leak oil. the response effort began almost immediately. the problem was there were so few resources, booms and cleanup -- cleanup equipment, there was not much that could be done. >> whose responsibility was it for the oil spill or did exxon have a plan? stan: a response plan? >> to alaska have a response plan, or was -- stan: the primary responsibility fell on exxon as the shipper. in valdez, the response plan, at least in the immediate aftermath of the spell is carried out by the -- the spill is carried out
12:42 pm
company. they were responsible for the first three days of the response effort. they are the ones who send out the boats in the booms in the cleanup equipment. that first three days, the spiller is supposed to take over management of the response and exxon did that after a relatively short time. it was exxon running the spill. what is the process of cleaning up oil? what are the challenges in an oil spill of that magnitude? oversimplify, there are two aspects. one is containment. try not to let it spread farther than it has. the other is removal. they are both difficult. we had a huge area that had spilled oil on it and some of the oil hit the beaches and
12:43 pm
emirates -- and immersed himself , ande plant and the gravel so removal was very difficult. one of the responses to these spill was to use something called a dispersant. the number of the dispersant at corexit.was oil is an organic substance, and given enough time, nature will reprocess it. the problem is ,corexit is pretty poisonous itself. it's not clear it did what it was opposed to do. there's evidence that we ended up with not just one poison in the water, but two. they tried it and it was an abysmal failure. they noticed the oil and the
12:44 pm
rocks on the beach, of course, and they had two solutions, one of which was ridiculous and one of which was devastating. the ridiculous one, and there's a lot of photographs of this and video. people went on the beach with paper towels to wipe the oil off the rocks. yes, they did. then they decided we will get high pressure hot water washes -- washers and we will wash the oil back into the water and then we can clean it up. they may have cleaned up some oil that way. they did further damage to the ecosystems with this hot water that was hot and also probably blasted some of the oil deeper into the sand. so the cleanup was, for the most part, an abysmal failure. ofhink maybe they got 50%
12:45 pm
the oil. that is a wild guess. nobody really knows. that probably fair to say the most part the cleanup effort was a pr effort to show america and the world that something was being done. officials said soon after the spill they would clean it all up, and of course, they did not even come close. >> how far did the oil spread? stan: i think the farther is to document -- before the wrist document was 12,000 or 13,000 miles away. ofcame up to the south end cook inlet, which is where anchorages and a completely different body of water, and by see several hundred miles. we talked about who had to come up with a response plan and i responsethe riemer he
12:46 pm
lay with these spiller, which is true. all theame time agencies have to have their own response plan to say what they are going to do. everyone in prince william sound was theoretically ready. as a practical matter, none of the horror, but they were all on the front line. had devastating impact on the fishing economy, fishing was the mainstay of the prince william sound economy. valdez, it was fishing or nothing. commercial fishing. , and aftering, crab the spill, the fisheries were just closed. it would take only one oil salmon to hit the market in
12:47 pm
seattle to destroy the market for years to come. they shut it down and said no fishing. some of the populations could not be fished for a while. haring was one big example. had beenthat fishing shut down and everyone was going broke forced to this agonizing dilemma and that was, should they hire their boats and their crews out to exxon to assist with the cleanup? and there were some who just could not do it. they could not work for exxon. and it provoked hideous divisions in prince william sound, and there was a derisive term. naires,re called spillio who made millions of dollars off this spill. there was real social
12:48 pm
dysfunction. that was something that was really studied by the group i looked for -- i worked for. the prince william sound advisory council. of social symptoms dysfunction. more drinking, more suicides, more divorces, more family violence. everything that can happen to a small, one industry society happened to his people in prince william sound. >> how long did it take the cleanup before it was completed? stan: the cleanup was intensive in the first year. even today there is some oil under some beaches in prince william sound. not a lot. but it is a testament to the -- once the oil gets
12:49 pm
under the surface, it does not degrade very fast. >> did congress ever get involved? stan: congress did get involved. they had hearings. lawiggest outcome was a called the oil pollution act of 1990 which remedied perceived defects that led to the exxon valdez spill. what were some of the key impacts that would affect oil? >> those two tugs were there to assist the tanker if it became
12:50 pm
disabled and also had response equipment on board that into the would be able to begin the response of fear -- the response immediately. if they're ready even been the response to put a boom around the exxon valdez, that would have helped. the other change, which was fiercely advocated by people in prince william sound, and indeed alaskans in general, even before the oil trade started, was to oilired double holes on tankers. a double hole is exactly what it sounds like. -- before the double hull, you would have an interest deal and then you would have seawater. any puncture would result in an oil leak. there aree hulls, two, separated by about 11 feet of airspace or ballast water or inner gas or whatever they want in there, so you can get a fairly serious puncture and have no leak.
12:51 pm
spill estimated after the is the exxon valdez had had a double hull, the size of the spill would have been dramatically less. it would have made a tremendous difference. so the oil pollution act of 1990 did require that ships coming into the obvious, and indeed i think all american ports, had to have double hulls by a certain deadline and now they all have double hulls. >> did this affect the oil industry's influence in the alaska legislature? and did alaska impose any regulations? stan: alaska law was revised to take cognizance of some of the
12:52 pm
impact of the spill. the alaskans were down on the oil industry. source of the biggest fun for the state government. i'm sure the biggest source of donations to the legislature. a lot of people work in the oil industry. i am sure that they know that a lot comes from the tax on the oil industry. and then there is the permanent fund, which is made up entirely from part of the oil revenue. about stands, i think, at $60 billion. that income is beginning to pay for these state government because oil revenues have declined. there is the alaska permanent fund dividend, and the state sends every alaskan at check.
12:53 pm
a check. once a year, every alaskan gets this check and we'll know it comes from oil money, basically. but now it is the earnings from the fund, but that fun came from oil money. as i was saying earlier, oil and the oil industry has this tremendous land share in alaska. it's definitely a lovely relationship. a lot of people hate the industry because of the oil spill. a lot of them still do because of the way controls or politics. love-hatefinitely a relationship. it's kind of like a bad marriage. it's not bad enough to get out of. >> talk about the bp oil spill that happened off the coast of louisiana. ?ere there any similarities did they learn anything from what had happened in alaska? stan: there were no real parallels in the operational sense. of completely different sets
12:54 pm
circumstances. what was similar for us alaskans watching from afar was the oil industry was caught flat-footed. i have sure they had all kinds of plans to keep that from happening, and plans to deal with it, but did any of it work? no, it did not. that will got loose and it spread and spread and spread. impact on communities that live on the coast of the golf -- especially the fishing communities, the cajuns and so on. , a lot ofthat spill people from that area came up here to look at what we had done in the prince william sound regional citizens advisory council, having a mechanism to give citizens a voice and how the oil industry operates in these areas. as i recall, the flow went on
12:55 pm
for day after day, for an inconceivable amount of time, whereas the escon -- the exxon valdez was a one and done event. >> do you think the oil industry had learned its lessons from and the oil spill off the coast of louisiana? yes and no. in the immediate aftermath, they did respond. i make no judgment as to the sincerity of their response. if history is any guide, those lessons will be lost. the attention of the public will turn to other matters, but the attention of the oil industry never wanes. they will always be there, they will always be doing that. saying about capitalism that is not quite as damming as it may sound. moral.ism is a it has no soul and no conscience. the goal of capitalism is to
12:56 pm
minimize cost and maximize revenue. it will always do that because that is in its dna. capitalism is a wonderful tool for increasing economic efficiency, but it comes with a set of risks and we have seen the consequences in the gulf of mexico and prince william sound. so, what society must never do is forget it is up to society to set the rules under which capitalism operates. in and ofcapitalism itself has no soul and no morality. it will do what it has to to make money. it is up to society to never let up because when we do, we get the exxon valdez. >> remembering president george ush and the invention of
12:57 pm
the world wide web this weekend on them in american history tv. sunday at 8 p.m. eastern on "the former secretary of state james baker remembers his longtime friend george h.w. bush. >> i was fortunate to serve as his secretary of state for four years. he was a wonderful friend in a beautiful human being, but to serve as secretary of state to a president who knew he had to defend me at protect me even when i was wrong. and at 9:00, on the 30th anniversary of the world wide web, a conversation with its inventor, tim berners-lee. >> imagine you have a problem like climate change or the cure for cancer, but the pieces are
12:58 pm
in different people's brains. so, goals for the web -- it should be a collaborative place where if i have an idea i could very easily put it into the web and as i wander around looking at other people's ideas i can pick them up and put them linkher, so you can anything together and say, ooh, you are thinking that? will i am thinking this. >> this weekend on c-span3. ago on march 24, 1989, the exxon valdez oil alaska'sruck a reef in prince william sound. two weeks later, the senate commerce committee heard from and the leadern of the government response. senator fritz hollings from south carolina was the chairman. fromill also see questions
12:59 pm
ted stevens and john kerry. this portion of the hearing is a little over two hours. at -- two hours. >> are you ready for me, mr. chairman? itscan deliver this in entirety or summarize, either way. >> i will summarize it. i am here to provide a frank response to questions involving the exxon valdez oil spill and to describe our continuing efforts to deal with its consequences. before i do this, however, i want to express my sincere regret as to what happened on behalf of exxon and certainly on behalf of myself. sympatheticcularly to the impacts on the residents the residents of
1:00 pm
the prince william sound area. that is were the difficulty is really creating problems for these people. as we have said many times times come we take full responsibility and we will do so from the beginning. all necessary resources are being fully employed, as had already been mentioned by secretary skinner, that the environment in the area and the remoteness and the high tides and physical problems associated with it makes it a difficult problem. bill --ents about this about the spill. occurred early on march 44.

7 Views

info Stream Only

Uploaded by TV Archive on