Before I get started with today’s history fact, I want to let you know that I am participating in the Blogging from A to Z Challenge for April 2014.  At the top of my blog you will see a page I have dedicated to this challenge.  No need to subscribe separately as these postings will hit my home page just like all my postings.  If you read my blog regularly, the only change you will see for the month of April is that the historical facts are not based on the date but based on the letter of the alphabet (yes even X).  26 postings each Monday through Saturday.  Sundays are a break day in the challenge but you will still see my date oriented postings on Sundays.

The Exxon Valdez is towed out of Prince William Sound in Alaska by tug boats in June 23, 1989.

The Exxon Valdez is towed out of Prince William Sound in Alaska by tug boats in June 23, 1989.

 

On March 24, 1989, the worst oil spill in U.S. territory (until the Deepwater Horizon BP oil spill in 2010) begins when the supertanker Exxon Valdez, owned and operated by the Exxon Corporation, runs aground on a reef in Prince William Sound in southern Alaska.  An estimated 11 million gallons of oil eventually spilled into the water. Attempts to contain the massive spill were unsuccessful, and wind and currents spread the oil more than 100 miles from its source, eventually polluting more than 700 miles of coastline. Hundreds of thousands of birds and animals were adversely affected by the environmental disaster.

Photo: ARLIS via Flickr/CC BY

Photo: ARLIS via Flickr/CC BY

It was later revealed that Joseph Hazelwood, the captain of the Valdez, was drinking at the time of the accident and allowed an uncertified officer to steer the massive vessel. In March 1990, Hazelwood was convicted of misdemeanor negligence, fined $50,000, and ordered to perform 1,000 hours of community service. In July 1992, an Alaska court overturned Hazelwood’s conviction, citing a federal statute that grants freedom from prosecution to those who report an oil spill.

Charged with drinking and driving, Hazelwood was fined $50,000 and sentenced to 1000 hours of community service. Joseph Hazelwood

Charged with drinking and driving, Hazelwood was fined $50,000 and sentenced to 1000 hours of community service. Joseph Hazelwood

Exxon itself was condemned by the National Transportation Safety Board and in early 1991 agreed under pressure from environmental groups to pay a penalty of $100 million and provide $1 billion over a 10-year period for the cost of the cleanup. However, later in the year, both Alaska and Exxon rejected the agreement, and in October 1991 the oil giant settled the matter by paying $25 million, less than 4 percent of the cleanup aid promised by Exxon earlier that year.

Ten Largest Oil Spills in the U.S.

The following table lists the largest oil spills in U.S. history. The date of the spill, circumstances surrounding the spill, and amount of oil spilled are also given.

Rank Date Cause Source Location Spill Volume
1. April 20, 2010 explosion drilling rig Deepwater Horizon Gulf of Mexico, 50 miles off the coast of Louisiana an estimated 200,000 gallons a day
2. March 24, 1989 reef collision tanker Exxon Valdez Prince William Sound, Alaska 10+ million gallons
3. Dec. 15, 1976 ran aground tanker Argo Merchant Nantucket Island 7.7 million gallons
4. Aug.–Sept. 2005 Hurricane Katrina various sources New Orleans, La. 7 million gallons
5. June 8, 1990 explosion tanker Mega Borg 60 miles off Galveston, Texas 5.1 million gallons
6. Nov. 28, 2000 ran aground tanker Westchester Port Sulphur, La. 567,000 gallons
7. Jan. 23, 2010 collision tanker Eagle Otome Port Arthur, Texas 462,000 gallons
8. July 25, 2008 collision unnamed barge New Orleans, La. 419,000 gallons
9. Dec. 7, 2004 ran aground M/V Selendang Ayu Aleutian Islands, Alaska 337,000 gallons
10. Aug. 10, 1993 collision barge Bouchard B155 Tampa Bay, Fla. 336,000 gallons

Information Please® Database, © 2013 Pearson Education, Inc. All rights reserved.

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