Learning from Disasters: Twenty-One Years after the Exxon Valdez Oil Spill, Will Reactions to the Deepwater Horizon Blowout Finally Address the Systemic Flaws Revealed in Alaska?

8 Pages Posted: 17 Dec 2010 Last revised: 26 Apr 2014

Zygmunt J. B. Plater

Boston College - Law School

Date Written: December 15, 2010

Abstract

Twenty years ago, after the calamitous Exxon Valdez oil spill in Alaska’s Prince William Sound, the pervasive systemic flaws - that according to the Alaska Oil Spill Commission had made a major calamity not just possible but probable - were largely cloaked behind the figure of a captain with a drinking problem. In 2010, after suffering another horrific oil incident - this one almost 20 times! larger than the Exxon Valdez spill - the question for national energy law and policy is whether, this time around, we’ll acknowledge and implement the hard systemic lessons largely avoided two decades ago. The Deepwater Horizon blowout will be a doubly disastrous occasion if it doesn’t produce systemic changes for the future, as the Exxon Valdez markedly failed to do. The Obama Administration’s Gulf of Mexico BP Deepwater Horizon Oil Spill Commission, like the Alaska Commission set up after the Exxon Valdez spill, is trying to harvest conclusions about causation - "why did this calamity happen?" - and about necessary fundamental changes in how we manage the extraction and transport of oil for the future. The BP Deepwater blowout spill and the Exxon Valdez experience are instructive both in their similarities and in their differences.

Keywords: Dispersants, State of Alaska Oil Spill Commission, Deepwater Horizon Oil Spill, Environmental disaster, environmental clean up

Suggested Citation

Plater, Zygmunt J. B., Learning from Disasters: Twenty-One Years after the Exxon Valdez Oil Spill, Will Reactions to the Deepwater Horizon Blowout Finally Address the Systemic Flaws Revealed in Alaska? (December 15, 2010). Environmental Law Reporter, Vol. 40, 2010; Boston College Law School Legal Studies Research Paper No. 214. Available at SSRN: https://ssrn.com/abstract=1726053

Zygmunt J. B. Plater (Contact Author)

Boston College - Law School ( email )

885 Centre Street
Newton, MA 02459-1163
United States
617-552-4387 (Phone)
617-552-2615 (Fax)

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