SocraticGadfly: #ExxonValdez — remembering 25 years

March 24, 2014

#ExxonValdez — remembering 25 years

One dead whale in Prince William Sound, 1989, via Exxon.
AP photo via Houston Chronicle
In the spring of 1989, I was in the first full year of graduate divinity school. I still belonged to, and believed in the tenets of, a fundamentalist Lutheran church. (No, family and friends, the Lutheran Church-Missouri Synod doesn't fit a narrower definition of Christian fundamentalists, but it does fit nicely in a broader sociology of religion definition.)

Anyway, I digress.

I was also, for the most part, still steeped in my parents' political beliefs, between my dad's Eisenhower-Main Street conservativism (with his twinge of Eisenhower-Main Street racism), and my mom's "None Dare Call It Treason" moving to Art Bell-listening Tea Party progenitorship (as I know with that anecdotal proof positive that the Tea Party idea is nothing new).

Anyway, again I digress.

I was already a bit of an environmentalist, at least in the sense of believing that Christian creationism did imply some sort of "good stewardship." And I was moving a bit beyond that, even.

Then, a seemingly drunken captain, Joseph Hazelwood, sailing a past-its-due-date, environmentally inadequate oil tanker, ran it aground on Alaskan rocks. And caused a massive animal die-off and other problems for which eXXXon (that's the correct spelling, folks) still refuses to admit full responsibility today.

That includes full financial responsibility, getting punitive damages cut to 10 percent of the original award due to "quirks" in maritime common law, per Wikipedia. And, since then? I've not seen either major party make major changes to environmental civil law to increase punitive damages for "takings" of reducing environmental and scenic value.

As for me? I took the next steps toward becoming a real environmentalist. (In the next five years, I took a chunk of steps toward becoming a real secularist [I avoid the Big A label, as much at times due to some Big As as well as Christian fundamentalists] and becoming a real liberal. By the end of the 1990s, I had moved beyond the Democratic Party, in fact and fortunately.) As part of that, I also became even more of an environmentalist, and a more activist one.

Indeed, while I had the pleasure of living in the Dallas area for most of the first decade of this century, I even "visited" a couple of eXXXon's annual shareholder meetings, as you can see. 

And, per the poster, we had even more to protest against eXXXon by 2008, or earlier. Since then, eXXXon has continued to be just as responsible of a corporate citizen on global warming and climate change, and now on oil and gas fracking, as it was on the Exxon Valdez. So eXXXon is the gift that keeps on giving.

And, in more ways than one. Per Wikipedia's story on the disaster, when in the original suit, eXXXon was hit with $5 billion in punitive damages, it got a $4.8 billion line of credit from J.P. Morgan. To insulate itself, Morgan created the first modern credit default swap.

In other words, eXXXon's Alaskan oil slick helped crap on the American economy nearly 20 years later. That said, why would anything about any unholy alliance between Wall Street and Big Oil surprise you? See: "Bros., Koch" for more.

Meanwhile, as High Country News notes, eXXXon's "cleanup" wasn't. There's still officially 21,000 gallons of oil in Prince William Sound and unofficially, much more.


And Perry reminds us, in light of the Houston Ship Channel collision over the weekend, that things haven't changed a lot. That includes the damage to wildlife, not just the inconvenience to the modern economy.

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