The Exxon Valdez Revisited: The Untold Story (a)

23 Pages Posted: 21 Oct 2008

See all articles by Gerry Yemen

Gerry Yemen

University of Virginia - Darden School of Business

Erika Hayes James

University of Virginia - Darden School of Business

Abstract

Being in charge of cleaning up the March 24, 1989 Exxon Valdez oil spill accident, meant that Otto Harrison, the general manager of Exxon International Alaskan Operations, was there when the storm clouds over the event were thick. Despite years of learning, wisdom, growth, and dealing with success and failure, Harrison had never faced a challenge of this magnitude. He was sure his experiences would be utilized in full force. The questions he thought about included whether three different governing bodies, the state of Alaska, the federal government, and Exxon, a publicly held corporation, could work together toward a common goal—to leave few signs of the biggest oil spill ever to occur in North America. What type of help was most needed now? Would Exxon's plan satisfy the numerous stakeholders? How would the plan be viewed publicly? What impact would the cleanup plan have on Exxon's business? In the (A) case, the Exxon Valdez accident and immediate challenges are described so students can put themselves in Harrison's place to lead through the crisis. The (B) case (epilogue) outlines more problems and includes actions taken to try to clean up the oil as quickly and effectively as they could. The tragedy changed the oil industry in many ways—some of which are described in the epilogue.

Excerpt

UVA-OB-0867

THE EXXON VALDEZ REVISITED: THE UNTOLD STORY (A)

On just one of what became numerous late nights, Otto Harrison, the general manager of Exxon International Alaskan Operations, worked on the final draft of Exxon's oil cleanup plan. Twenty-three days after the grounding of the Exxon Valdez oil tanker on Bligh's Reef in Prince William Sound, Alaska, Harrison had to submit Exxon's plan for shoreline cleanup to the United States Coast Guard (USCG). His deadline was April 15, 1989, and Harrison understood the importance of presenting the best Shoreline Cleanup Execution Plan that Exxon was capable of providing to return the affected region to its former pristine condition. Harrison thought about the decisions that needed to be made and how several outside influences had determined the plan's shape, voice, and content. Some decisions were large and others were as small as the tiniest drop of oil. But all of them were important.

Despite years of learning, wisdom, growth, and dealing with success and failure, Harrison had never faced a challenge of this magnitude. He was sure that his experiences would be utilized in full force. The questions he thought about included whether three different governing bodies, the state of Alaska, the federal government, and Exxon, a publicly held corporation, could work together toward a common goal—to leave few signs of the biggest oil spill to ever occur in North America. What type of help was most needed now? Would Exxon's plan satisfy its numerous stakeholders? How would the plan be viewed by the public? What impact would the cleanup plan have on Exxon's future business?

The Exxon Valdez: Taking on Water

Friday, March 24

. . .

Keywords: crisis leadership, management, oil spill, oil industry, leadership, Exxon Valdez, emergency planning, public outrage, national contingency plans, worker safety, building credibility, decision making, business and government, government regulations

Suggested Citation

Yemen, Gerry and James, Erika Hayes, The Exxon Valdez Revisited: The Untold Story (a). Darden Case No. UVA-OB-0867. Available at SSRN: https://ssrn.com/abstract=1281870

Gerry Yemen (Contact Author)

University of Virginia - Darden School of Business ( email )

P.O. Box 6550
Charlottesville, VA 22906-6550
United States

Erika Hayes James

University of Virginia - Darden School of Business ( email )

P.O. Box 6550
Charlottesville, VA 22906-6550
United States
434-924-4796 (Phone)
434-924-0714 (Fax)

HOME PAGE: http://www.darden.virginia.edu/faculty/james.htm

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