Recognizing the 30th anniversary of the Exxon Valdez oil spill

Resolution 19-01:

Recognizing the 30th anniversary of the Exxon Valdez oil spill, supporting high standards and safeguards for the Valdez Marine Terminal and associated tankers, and continued work to create the best response system possible should prevention measures fail

Floating oil spill boom from Exxon Valdez oil spill
Tangled boom from the 1989 cleanup. Photo by Charles Ehler, courtesy of Alaska Resource Library & Information Services.

Whereas, on March 24, 1989, the Exxon Valdez ran aground on Bligh Reef and spilled an estimated 11 million gallons of crude oil and oiling some 1,300 miles of Alaska coastline;

Whereas, March 24, 2019, marks 30 years since this disaster;

Whereas, Congress determined that complacency on the part of industry and government was a contributing factor in the accident and mandated citizen involvement in the oversight of crude oil terminals and tankers;

Whereas, the Prince William Sound Regional Citizens’ Advisory Council, an independent non-profit corporation whose mission, as mandated by the Oil Pollution Act of 1990, is to promote environmentally safe operation of the Valdez Marine Terminal and associated tankers;

Whereas, the Council represents communities, commercial fishing, aquaculture, Alaska Native, recreation, tourism, and environmental organizations in the region adversely impacted by the 1989 Exxon Valdez oil spill;

Read moreRecognizing the 30th anniversary of the Exxon Valdez oil spill

Thirty years later, Council continues mission to combat complacency

Donna Schantz

By Donna Schantz
Executive Director

On March 24, 1989, the Exxon Valdez ran aground on Bligh Reef and spilled an estimated 11 million gallons of crude oil. Congress determined that complacency on the part of industry and government was a contributing factor in the accident and they mandated citizen involvement in the oversight of crude oil terminals and tankers. For the past 30 years, the Council has filled this role for Prince William Sound and its downstream communities, advocating for environmental safeguards to prevent oil spills and a strong response system should prevention measures fail.

Improvements since 1989

Measures developed with Council participation since 1989 represent vast improvements in oil spill prevention and response. We have double-hull tankers, high-performance escort tugs, a much-improved workforce, state-of-the art equipment for recovering oil, and a fleet of over 400 trained fishing vessels and crews ready to respond promptly to an oil spill. We also have improved communications between the oil industry and the state and federal governments, and more oil spill clean-up equipment than probably any other U.S. port. This has taken considerable effort on the part of industry, regulators, the Council, and other members of the public.

Some recent examples of improvements include new purpose-built tugs and oil spill response barges that came on line with the marine services transition in 2018, and new technology that allows pipelines at the Valdez Marine Terminal to be internally inspected, which had not been done since start-up over 40 years ago.

Read moreThirty years later, Council continues mission to combat complacency

30 years after Exxon Valdez

Title is Then and Now: 30 Years After the Exxon Valdez Oil Spill

How has oil transportation changed in Prince William Sound since 1989?

Image of cover of Then and Now 30 Years After the Exxon Valdez Oil Spill
Read more about the changes and remaining concerns in our new publication: Then and Now: 30 Years After the Exxon Valdez Oil Spill (PDF)

The immediate cause of 1989 Exxon Valdez oil spill was a navigational error on the part of the tanker’s captain and crew. However, Congress found that complacency among the oil industry and the regulatory agencies responsible for monitoring the operation of the Valdez terminal and vessel traffic in Prince William Sound was also a contributing factor in the disaster.

Few prevention measures were in place and cleanup resources were inadequate.

Since 1989, regulatory agencies, the industry, and citizens have been working together on improved methods to prevent oil spills and how to be better prepared to clean up if another spill should occur.

Laws and Regulations

One of the most important results of the oil spill was the enactment of the federal Oil Pollution Act of 1990, or “OPA 90,” which addressed many deficiencies, including liability, compensation, and oversight. The law required two citizens’ oversight councils, one for Prince William Sound and one for Cook Inlet.

Both federal and state laws now require more comprehensive prevention measures and planning for larger spills and require more spill response equipment to be immediately available.

Read more30 years after Exxon Valdez

Skip to content