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Sierra Club
FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
MARCH 24, 2004
8:25 AM
CONTACT:  Sierra Club
Brian O'Malley, 202-675-6279
Annie Strickler, 202-675-2384
 
Risk Of Oil Spill Disasters Still High, Fifteen Years After Exxon Valdez Tragedy
 

WASHINGTON - March 24 - Fifteen years after the Exxon Valdez ran aground on a reef in Prince William Sound, Alaska, dumping 11 million gallons of crude oil, the Bush administration has failed to learn important lessons about protecting fragile coastlines, landscapes and wildlife from oil development. The disaster dealt biological and economic shocks to the Sound and its adjacent communities, none of which has fully recovered.

"The lingering images of oil drenched beaches and suffering wildlife should serve as a stark reminder to the Bush administration of the consequences of America's dependence on oil," said Carl Pope, Sierra Club Executive Director. "Instead, the administration has pursued reckless policies that put America's pristine places at risk and failed to cut America's oil dependence by making vehicles go further on a gallon of gas."

The biggest single step to cutting America's oil dependence and protecting our communities from the harmful effects of oil and pollution is by raising fuel economy standards to 40 miles per gallon within 10 years. Taking this step would save enough oil to prevent more than 789 Exxon Valdez-size tanker trips every year.

"The Bush administration has a choice: either lead America with a safe and clean energy future or allow corporate polluters to dictate our energy policy with disastrous consequences," said Pope.

In 1991, the ship's owner - now ExxonMobil - reached a $900 million civil settlement with the federal government and Alaska, but its obligations to the thousands of fishermen and others who suffered from the spill remain unresolved.

Bush administration policies continue to threaten Alaskan communities and wildlands. These policies include:

ARCTIC NATIONAL WILDLIFE REFUGE: The Bush Administration continues to aggressively push for oil drilling in one of America's last great wilderness areas. Just last week the Administration's own Energy Information Administration stated that oil drilling in the refuge would do next to nothing to actually meet America's energy needs. According to the report, "Assuming that world oil markets continue to work as they do today, the Organization of Petroleum Exporting Countries could countermand any potential price impact of ANWR coastal plain production by reducing its exports by an equal amount." (http://www.eia.doe.gov/oiaf/servicerpt/ogp/pdf/sroiaf(2004)04.pdf)

BRISTOL BAY: In response to the Exxon Valdez spill President George H. Walker Bush put in place a moratorium on oil and gas development in Bristol Bay, AK. Now, almost 15 years to the day President George W Bush is lifting this moratorium to allow for full scale oil development in the Bay's world-renown salmon habitat.

CHUGACH NATIONAL FOREST: The 3,500 miles of shoreline spanning Prince William Sound make up the biological heart of the Chugach National Forest. Although the total harm done to fish and wildlife populations could not be precisely identified, the Exxon Valdez oil spill killed an estimated 250,000 seabirds, 2,800 sea otters, 300 harbor seals, 250 bald eagles, up to 22 killer whales, and billions of salmon and herring eggs. Crude oil still exists in surprising quantities on some Prince William Sound beaches and only 7 of 26 species have fully recovered. Despite the delicate nature of the Sound, the Bush Administration has removed nearly one million acres in the Nellie Juan Wilderness Study Area through the Chugach Land Management Plan and has recently said it has plans to remove the Chugach from the Roadless Rule. The Chugach is 98 percent roadless and does not have a single acre of designated Wilderness, leaving it vulnerable. Without Roadless protection, Prince William Sound may never fully recover.

WESTERN ARCTIC: The Bush Administration is continuing to press for full scale development of the Western Arctic region in Alaska. Ignoring sound science and the American public, the Bush Administration is seeking to turn over control of this area to oil companies like ExxonMobil. As development proceeds the Administration should recommend that some areas receive permanent protection.

ENERGY BILL: The Bush administration's energy policy makes oil and gas drilling the dominant purpose of our public lands. It also exempts oil and gas activities from such landmark environmental safeguards as the Safe Drinking Water Act and Clean Water Act. In addition, it puts coastlines at risk by weakening individual states ability to manage oil and gas exploration and facilities.

CORPORATE AVERAGE FUEL ECONOMY(CAFE): CAFE is the most successful oil-savings law ever passed by Congress. The Bush administration fought attempts to raise federal fuel economy standards and has even proposed regulatory changes that would weaken existing law. Loopholes in the existing law cause the average fuel economy of new vehicles sold last year to fall below 1989 levels.

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